Why volunteers won’t show up for your training (2 of 3)

Why volunteers won't show up for your trainingThis guest series is contributed by Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries.

Training Killer #2: Cotton Candy Training Content

Another killer of training in the church is weak training content. Frankly, when it comes to training and resources for volunteers in the church today, there’s a lot of fluff out there! The dysfunctional premise of much of this cotton candy training seems to be:

  • “We can’t—and shouldn’t—expect much out of volunteers.”
  • “Volunteers are not as gifted as fulltime pastors and church staff.”
  • “Volunteers won’t really put in the work necessary to be trained to do ministry well.”

I heartily disagree with all of these faulty and unbiblical premises about volunteers in the church—for the following reasons:

Fiction: “We can’t—and shouldn’t—expect much out of volunteers.”
Fact: We should expect what God expects from every Christian.

The Bible teaches that all Christians (including “volunteers”) are full-time ministers whether or not they get a paycheck from a church (see II Corinthians 5:18- 20 and I Peter 2:9 just as a couple of examples)! Therefore, the church should fully expect from volunteers what God expects out of every Christian:

  • a life of loving God and loving people (Mark 12:30-31)
  • regular personal study of Godʼs Word (II Timothy 2:15)
  • prayer (Philippians 4:6-7)
  • worship (Romans 12:1-2)
  • service (I Peter 4:10)
  • financial stewardship (II Corinthians 8:7)
  • sexual purity (I Thessalonians 4:3-8)
  • biblical community and loving accountability (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • sharing the gospel clearly (Mark 3:14)
  • And everything else commanded in the Bible (see your Bible)

These commands (not suggestions) from God are not just for pastors and church staff, but for every Christian! Therefore, it is right to expect all believers — including volunteers in the church — to be growing and developing in the personal application of God’s commands. This is normal Christianity and should be an essential part of any volunteer training in the church.

Fiction: “Volunteers are not as gifted as fulltime pastors and church staff.”
Fact: Pastors and staff are not the only gifted servants in the church.

While most church volunteers have not studied theology formally in a seminary or Bible college, all saved volunteers are gifted for ministry! (See I Peter 4:10.) Furthermore, it is not uncommon for volunteers to be as gifted for ministry — or even more gifted for ministry in certain ways and areas — than their pastors. You would think that all pastors and church staff would welcome this as a God-thing, and a good thing! Think about it: How cool would it be to have a group of gifted volunteers serving away in the church with passion and excellence? However, insecure pastors and church staff have an uncanny ability to ignore high potential volunteers and, ultimately, these gifted volunteers end up at a church where a secure pastor puts these “ministry partners” into play where their giftedness can be maximized for the glory of God.

Make no mistake about it: Volunteers in the church are gifted to do ministry by the same Holy Spirit who gifted the pastor! (See I Corinthians 12:7.) If we think volunteers are second class workers in the church, not as gifted or able as formally educated pastors and staff, then our efforts to train volunteers will tend to be fluffy and lack disciplemaking substance.

Fiction: “Volunteers won’t really put in the work necessary to be trained to do ministry well.”
Fact: Volunteers desire biblical training with specific application.

I just spent a weekend with sixty extremely committed and hard working church volunteers in Pennsylvania. These folks drove from several states and eagerly gave up their precious time and paid considerable personal and financial expense to participate in serious, interactive, rigorous, biblical, and extremely practical ministry training. These volunteers threw themselves into the learning activities, took notes, prayed fervently, laughed heartily, loved each other intensely, and pelted me with questions about the nuts and bolts of doing ministry biblically and effectively.

Below is an e-mail (used by permission) I received from two of the volunteer youth workers who attended the training weekend. As you read the e-mail, pay close attention to the fact that not only are these volunteers working hard in their ministry— but they are also diligently working hard at applying the training they received to their lives and ministry:

My husband Dwayne and I were recently at a youth workers retreat where we experienced training with Cadre Ministries. We very much enjoyed the weekend and heard God speak to us through the training.

We appreciated the focus on building our own relationship with Christ first and foremost. We won’t soon forget the illustration with the water being poured out into cups to then overflow into others. It brought to mind John 15:5, apart from Him, we can do nothing! We need to stay connected to Jesus.

Through Cadre’s Ministry Is Relationships training, we received affirmation in beginning a mentoring ministry at our church where we will pair a youth with an adult mentor. We see this will be a great way to help build relationships and build the Kingdom.

We also appreciated the personal growth plan challenge that was presented. It is helping us apply the things we learned over the weekend. We also hope to implement the Smart Goals into our mentoring program.

Overall we just were glad for the refreshment and the time to build our relationship with God. Thanks and Praise be to the Father!
Sheri and David, Volunteer Youth Workers for Nine Years (so far)

Are these volunteers working hard applying the training they got to their own lives and their volunteer ministry? You bet. Weekend after weekend I have the high honor of working with volunteers like this. When the training is intensely biblical with very specific application to their lives and ministries, volunteers are more than willing to put in the work necessary to be trained to do ministry well. Don’t miss this point: It’s wrong to view volunteers as theological or ministry lightweights who only want a “101 Easy Techniques Approach to Volunteerism in the Church.”

The truth is that many volunteers want more than the cotton candy training they are being offered. They’re silently asking, “Where’s the beef?” (Remember that commercial?) The real question is: Will you and your church keep living in the land of fiction when it comes to training volunteers, or will you and your church stand and deliver meaty ministry training that encourages and equips them to love God and love people?

FREE bonus audio download: What keeps volunteers from really stepping into God’s purposes for their lives

A $0.99 training tool for you to use with volunteers: You’re Never Just a Volunteer

Bil Allison and familyBill Allison is the founder of Cadre Ministries, a ministry whose Eph. 4:11-12 obsession is to equip churches to make volunteers wildly successful. Cadre fulfills this obsession best by training trainers to take training back to their local ministries. Every month he publishes Cadre Connection, a FREE gold mine of training resources for volunteers in the church — and those who love volunteers in the church. Subscribe for free.

Posted on September 15, 2009

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