As a pastor, I had a strong conviction about staff members in regards to one way they should spend their time. I often encouraged our staff to volunteer somewhere in our community.
I never felt I could mandate it, but my dream for the church was that every staff member would find somewhere to serve – outside the church.
It could be
- Coaching a ball team.
- Serving on a non-profit board.
- Helping regularly at a food kitchen.
- Periodically picking up trash along the road.
- Visiting a nursing home often.
- Working with a para-church ministry consistently.
- Joining a civic group or community leadership program.
- Reading to children in the public school system.
And, I tried to lead by example. My wife did also. We both served on numerous non-profit boards, we volunteered in several local ministries, and we even volunteered in our local visitor’s center once or twice a month.
We did this personally and believe in it, because it allowed us to get outside the walls of the church. It’s hard to actually meet unchurched people when we aren’t ever outside the church.
It also allowed us to be a part of and show support for our community. We could learn more about the people we were trying to reach. It’s hard to reach people you don’t know.
Perhaps more important to me, my philosophy, coming out of the business world into ministry was if we were going to ask others to serve in the church and community, we needed to set an example they could follow.
The truth is some of us get paid to serve in the church. (Even in my current job – I’m paid to do ministry. I need a place to volunteer.)
My question was always – where do I “volunteer”?
In addition to not being able to reach people you don’t know you can’t reach people you don’t love. Well, the more we love our communities the more we will want to serve our communities.
And, I’m convinced, it’s the best way for the church to remain viable in our communities today.
So, while as a pastor I didn’t mandate volunteering. I certainly did encourage it. (And, thankfully most of our staff did.)