We’ve all done it: thinking that the recruitment of people for congregational ministry is problem-solving. Filling a position is too easily seen as averting a crisis. But what if engaging people in congregational ministry is primarily about helping people find their faith more meaningful? What if the work of helping congregants find involvement doesn’t just happen when there is an empty chair to fill, but is a core work of a congregation that is going on all the time?
Some of the most common concerns I hear about in my conversations with congregations revolve around “member engagement”: congregants who believe they are “active members” but infrequently attend worship, people who attend worship but do not participate mid-week, as well as the hesitancy of people to agree to take on leadership roles in congregational life. It is most acutely felt in many congregations when leaders find it hard to fill important ministry positions on committees, in pastoral care, for church school, as well as on the Session.
I wonder if one reason we have these challenges is because we are focused primarily on the needs of the congregational organization rather than nurturing people? On filling an empty chair rather than fulfilling individuals?
I’ve recently come across a free resource designed to help congregations do both that was designed for use in Jewish faith communities. It’s origins is not a problem for us—congregational life is congregational life, and the Old Testament references work just as well for us. The package is called “Repair the World. The Engaged Congregation: a guide to creating a volunteer culture”. The material was produced by JFFixler Group, who are professional consultants in volunteer engagement, and sponsored by several donors (including Canada’s Bronfman family). This straight-forward, user friendly resource helps a congregation establish an engagement working group whose primary task is two-fold: help people find greater meaning in their faith through ministry involvement, and help populate a congregation’s organization with motivated individuals. The resource comes in four documents, each about 16 pages in length. Each booklet contains educational elements, evaluative tools and templates to help the engagement working group. The four booklets focus on four important engagement topics:
1] An Introduction to the Core Competencies of an Engaged Congregation
2] Creating a Culture of Engagement in a Congregation
3] Supporting Persons in Ministry
4] Acknowledging Volunteers
The big benefit of this program is how it helps a congregation take much more seriously the interests, needs, motivation and point-of-view of congregants as individuals who are being invited not only into new ministry opportunities but also into a faith journey. It is also very comprehensive, as it seeks to align the promoted congregational attitude towards involvement with an organization that is oriented to invite, support and encourage participation.
If your congregation feels like it is struggling finding people to fulfill ministries, then this approach and resource may be very helpful to you. If you are interested, drop me a line and I will email this free package to you.
8 December 2014