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by Dominique Ourlin

I also need to remember that people in my church are not there to help me fulfill my vision and mission, but that my mandate is to help them fulfil theirs
Volunteer: “A person who does some act … without being under any legal obligation to do so and without being promised any remuneration for his services.” Well, in that sense, all believers are volunteers; but don’t you think this word often has a condescending connotation?

In reality, we know that ministers are also, first and foremost, “servants”—whether they are paid for what they do or not. I remember the day a member of the French government reminded his colleagues that “minister” literally means “servant”! They probably needed to hear that. So do we. Maybe we are by our calling what Abigail was in David’s days: “Here is your maidservant, a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (1 Samuel 25:41, NKJV). In our case, the “servants of our Lord” manifest as our brothers and sisters in the local church.

As a full-time pastor, I constantly need to be reminded that it is my privilege to dedicate all my time to serving, equipping and tending the flock God has entrusted to me—an awesome responsibility I cannot begin to fulfil without the unceasing help of the Holy Spirit.

I also need to remember that people in my church are not there to help me fulfill my vision and mission, but that my mandate is to help them fulfil theirs (Ephesians 4)! This is not just a theoretical concept. I believe it actually determines our whole approach to the ministry.

If volunteers are there just to help me fulfil my vision, I will inevitably be tempted to manipulate and use them to my own ends, as spiritual as they may appear to be. Instead, I must be an example to the flock and help them become all God intends them to be with the gifts He has already given them. A true shepherd’s greatest reward is to see “volunteers” grow as servants and do things just as well as—or better—than he himself would.

If I read my Bible right as a minister—sorry, as a servant—my main calling is to help my brothers and sisters become all God intends them to be—even if their shadow sometimes tends to cover my halo.

The Volunteer Revolution
Although I am definitely not a big fan of mega-churches, I have grown to respect deeply Bill Hybels’ approach to the ministry, especially as it relates to volunteers. In my opinion, his book, The Volunteer Revolution,1 is certainly the best of its kind. He emphasizes at great length how people are not materials to be used, but precious individuals—the Lord calls them “living stones,” an army of co-workers with God Himself—to be loved, challenged and encouraged all along the way.

I have come to believe that the measure of my ministry, as I share and teach the Word, is how much I have helped people to face the coming week and the challenges that will come their way, to walk with God and be light and salt wherever circumstances may take them. I will be held responsible and accountable as to whether I have completed this mandate.

Richard Rohr, although in another context, gives us five excellent reasons to affirm and strengthen church volunteers:

Life is hard.
You are not that important
Your life is not about you.
You are not in control.
You are going to die.2

Exciting, isn’t it? Not really, but certainly very realistic …

I have served well when I have helped others serve well. This is much more ambitious and demanding than simply shining on the platform (am I really that bright?)—and much more rewarding and honourable!

Here are a few questions a pastor needs to ask himself:
1. Are my ministry priorities centred on my personal vision and agenda or on the needs and ministry opportunities present in my congregation?

2. How much of our time and energy as leaders in our church are invested in “equipping the saints” when considering our yearly church activity calendar?

3. If I struggle in the area of working with volunteers in my church and tend to be a loner, with whom could I share this difficulty so I can get some help? Whom could I humbly ask for help?

4. How could I evaluate, with assistance from my leaders, where we stand as far as helping people get involved in their area of giftedness to fulfil our mandate to make disciples?

5. Does our church budget reflect the fact that equipping and training the saints for ministry is one of our top priorities?

6. What specific steps are we planning to take to encourage, train and equip our leaders and servants this year?

These questions are not meant to discourage anyone in any way; rather, to challenge us to tackle this issue seriously.

Most churches, thank God, outlast their pastors. Only what’s built according to the Master’s plan will last.

“He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13, The Message, emphasis mine.)

Let us never grow weary of helping God’s children become His useful servants for the expansion of His kingdom and the glory of His name!
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DOMINIQUE OURLIN After serving in pastoral ministry for 25 years in France,
Dominique Ourlin and his wife Candy moved to Quebec in 2001 where they pastored in Sainte-Foy for 6 years. He is now Communications Assistant for the Quebec District of the PAOC; they live in Quebec City and spend part of their time in transitional ministry, helping various local churches.
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