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What Are You Inviting Laity to Do?

Churches across the country face a common dilemma -- recruiting laity to serve the church. How many of us have been on the receiving end of a desperate plea to serve on the finance committee, become a trustee, or teach a weeklong VBS class for seventh graders? Those enlisted to recruit employ a variety of tactics designed to convince the nearest warm body to wedge the church into an already busy schedule. Predictably, these tactics do not register very highly on the personal motivation scale. Believe it or not, the types of opportunities we invite laity to participate in have a direct bearing on how evangelistic a local church can be.

Two Recruitment Choices
In Heartbeat!, Charles Arn notes that churches typically use two approaches when recruiting laity for ministry. The most common choice between the two is the institutional approach. This approach focuses on the needs of the church institution. The church needs Sunday school teachers, committee members, worship leaders, and so on. These are all necessary positions for effective ministry. In this scenario, a "successful" church is one that finds enough people to fill the ministry slots.

But what if your gifts and graces don't fit neatly into any of the available ministry slots? How motivated would you be to serve and how effectively would you carry out your duties?

The second choice is the individual approach -- one far less practiced. This approach places priority on identifying places "where church members (and even non-members) can find fulfillment and personal growth that complement their interests and abilities." This approach begins with the strengths of the individual in mind, rather than the needs of the institution. The church invites people to "test drive" a position related to their interest to see if they are a good fit. If so, the member may choose to spend more time in that ministry or receive training. If the person does not sense a calling to that position, the church encourages him or her to explore other ministries.

By allowing people to discover their strengths, the local church paves the way for more entrepreneurial ministry.

What's Your Passion?
If we want to motivate people to engage in ministry -- especially evangelistic ministry -- we must find out what people already care about. To do this, Arn urges churches to help laity identify their passions. Here are a few suggestions.

Pastors, share the importance of harnessing personal passion for ministry in some of your sermons. In new member classes, ask people to share their hobbies and special interests -- keep track of their responses. Create a 4 X 6 "I Wish" card that invites people to state what they wish the church would begin to do that they would be willing to help with. Arn lists these and many other examples in Heartbeat!

From Passion to Process
Helping a person identify his or her passion is the first step on the journey toward meaningful ministry. The process is simple. First, help people discover their passions; they then find a few other people with a similar passion and create a team and create a meaningful ministry around that passion. Get several folks to pray for the ministry, talk to the potential target audience you want to reach (ideally at least one-third to one-half of participants should be unchurched), and create a ministry plan.

Golfing for God
Here is an example of how one can transform passion into purposeful ministry. Jane is passionate about golf -- playing it, teaching it, and inviting others to enjoy it. She may also care deeply about military veterans who wear prosthetic limbs due to war injuries. Because her church emphasizes using one's passion for Christ in ministry, Jane begins to think about how her passion for golf could become a meaningful ministry. Jane's brother, a war vet, wears a prosthetic leg and she wants to do something to lift him out of depression.

With the ministry process in mind, Jane finds several people who share similar passions and forms a team. She also asks three to five people to pray constantly for this developing ministry. Jane then talks to her brother about the idea and asks him if there are other vets with prosthetic limbs who might like to learn how to golf. Jane and her team meet with the vets and listen to their suggestions about what would make this type of golfing experience meaningful. The vets tell the team how meaningful it would be just to spend quality time with people who care for and appreciate them.

The team receives the veterans' suggestions and incorporates the best ideas into the ministry plan. Jane gets some owners of sporting goods stores involved as sponsors, gets a discount and reserves times at a golf course, and receives some donated golf clubs from people who learn about her efforts. After a lot of hard work, Jane and the team lead a group of very appreciative vets onto the practice range and begin their first round of golf instruction.

This type of situation provides an opportunity to build relationships that can lead to invitations to other church-sponsored activities. Ultimately, some vets may come to worship, establish relationship with Jesus Christ and incorporation into the fellowship of the local church. In the meantime, the laity are learning how to serve Christ through their passions.

From one person's passion, purposeful ministry can emerge. What are you inviting your laity to do?

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Kwasi Kena, the former Director of Evangelism at Discipleship Ministries, is now an Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry at the Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, Indiana.