Are we raising up volunteers or leaders?

Last week I read a great article on the Catalyst website which asked whether churches were developing leaders or simply recruiting volunteers.

Volunteers are crucially important to the church. Our greatest collective ministry to our city is our presentation of the word of God in all its various forms each weekend, and it takes over 1000 volunteers each weekend for us to pull that off well. Greeters, parking leaders, teachers, worship leaders, production directors, etc are all crucial in making the gospel message plain to peoples of all ages each week. Thus, we believe every Summit member should have a job within the church whereby he or she serves our body and, through that, our community on the weekend. The presentation of the word of God in the weekend service is priority # 1 of our church (Acts 6:1–5; 1 Cor 14:25).

That said, we want to develop leaders in our church, not just recruit volunteers who help us pull off weekend ministry. We believe everyone has been given a ministry gift and that many of those, if not most, are to be used primarily outside the church, in the community.

To develop leaders I believe two values have to be firmly entrenched.

1. A great deal of Christian ministry happens outside of the weekend service, and members are to be empowered to do things that are not directly beneficial to the bottom line of the church.

2. We must be willing to see, even encourage, some of our favorite leaders and members go out from the church to serve in new places of ministry. We never want to put a lid on someone’s potential by keeping them in a place when they could be doing more. We are committed to seeing the gospel go into new places, and that requires empowering and sending our finest. Many will be called to stay right here in RDU and reach their respective spheres of influence through this church; others will be equipped and sent out.

Business writer Jim Collins said that the difference between “good” companies and “great companies” is that good companies enlist quality people to carry out the vision of one “genius.” “Great” companies collect and empower geniuses and help them reach their God-given potential.

Those that know him well say that Jack Welch’s (the legendary CEO of G.E.) greatest gift was his ability to spot and raise up leaders. An impressive number of CEO’s came from GE. He gave away some good leaders, but the leadership culture he created attracted many to replace the ones he “sent.” That is what we desire here at the Summit Church – not to be a group of people gathered around a leader, but a leadership factory.

We rejoice even though it’s bittersweet when some of our greatest and most gifted leaders, lay and staff, rise up from among us and go to plant their lives elsewhere. We believe that, just like the boy with five loaves and two fish, as we give what little we have away, God will multiply it and give it back to us. It is a great, and harrowing, and very rewarding life to give what you have away to see it used for the purposes of the Great Commission.

(see also this previous post)