Get over it, I thought. Begging everyone and anyone for help from the pulpit inevitably produces unqualified helpers. No church profits from hastily recruited, ill-equipped volunteers. Churches prosper from hand-picked, well-trained servants who see what they do in the church as ministry not a job--as a calling not a burden.
Let's sharply delineate between volunteers and servant-ministers in a church:
Volunteers are recruited at large, are burdened by need, are doing a job, are working as a favor and for a favor, expect recognition, have a talent, are high maintenance, burn out quickly, leave a void, work lethargically, look for an out, fill a slot and tread water, and see a task as a stepping-stone.
Servants are hand-picked, are called by God, are ministering, are being a blessing, expect God, have a gifting, offer to help train and equip others, enlist helpers, leave a successor, are excited and enthusiastic, look to grow, grow personally and disciple others, and do a task as unto the Lord.
Volunteers fill a slot and hold down a position until the paid troops come in; servant-ministers refuse positions and titles while fostering new growth and excitement in their areas of ministry. Servants are the troops.
Paul definitively instructs the exemplary servant-leader with these imperatives: (1) "Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top"; (2) "Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead"; (3) "Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage"; (4) "Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand"; and (5) "Agree with one another, love one another, be deep-spirited friends" (adapted from Phil. 2, The Message).
So how does a pastor hand-pick persons to serve in ministry?
1. Know your people.
Develop relationships with your leadership.
2. Talk to your servant-leaders.
Share with them about the ministry needs and ask their input about potential servant-leaders.
3. Train and equip your leaders.
Provide them with the best resources and supporters. Always bring a new servant under a spiritual mentor who will guide, teach and direct the growing servant-leader. Never throw an untested servant into a new ministry without supervision, support and resources.
4. Be a servant.
People in a congregation model their pastor. If he or she expects to be served, then the sheep will develop a self-centered attitude. If, on the other hand, a pastor is always esteeming, affirming and serving others, the sheep will also become servants (see 1 Thess. 5:12).
Following are some of the warning signs servant-leaders begin to exhibit if their heart attitudes start becoming self-centered. They will begin: seeking positions and promotions; expecting recognition; desiring compensation (it's not wrong to pay workers, but servants who only do it for money are motivated by the wrong thing); complaining instead of finding ways to solve problems; criticizing instead of affirming others; becoming lone rangers instead of team players; and refusing to participate in team training and accountability times together.
Servant ministry begins with a heart change effected by the Spirit. And that heart change bears fruit first in the closest relationships a person has--marriage, family, friendships and working relationships. Relationship patterns reveal heart attitudes.
Ready to select and equip some servant-ministers? Pray! Ask God to shape you and your people into the kind of servant Jesus incarnated. Let it be said of all the servant-ministers in a church: "We can see they've been with Jesus."