A Weekend With No Volunteers

A Weekend with No Volunteers
Tobin Perry

Imagine if your church had no volunteers next week. No one to direct cars. No one to pass out bulletins. No one to display music lyrics on a screen for worship. Imagine that your staff has to do everything next weekend. Sound crazy?

Jimmie Davidson thought so. When the creative team of Highlands Fellowship in Abingdon, VA, started talking about the idea as part of a weekend focus on “Crazy Service,” Davidson, the church’s senior pastor, thought the idea sounded risky. They depended upon their volunteers to help make the service effective and well-run, the kind of worship service where people wanted to invite their friends.

But the Highlands team also knew that a weekend without volunteers was an ideal way to show the congregation just how much volunteers mattered to the running of the church.

Highlands has always been the kind of church that takes risks. So on Sunday morning, Davidson and his staff gathered the volunteers for a thank-you breakfast. That’s when he told volunteers they wouldn’t be volunteering that day.

When people came into the worship services that weekend, they were struck by a completely different kind of Highlands experience. No one was there to hand out bulletins, help with parking, put the lyrics to the music on the screen, or greet people as they came in.

Just one person was up front leading worship – not the typical worship team and praise band. The staff handed out the song lyrics copied poorly on sheets of paper.

And although Jimmy had told the church this would be a bad weekend to bring their friends, few people listened. There were many first-time guests. In time, Davidson explained what was happening to the congregation and apologized to guests. People seemed to “get it.” During the service, 500 people committed to serve at Highlands. (The church has about 1,250 volunteers throughout a typical week.)

Here are some tips Davidson shared for other churches considering a “volunteer-less” weekend service:

1. This shouldn’t be how you start mobilizing people for ministry. Highlands had already done ministry fairs and taught frequently on the idea of S.H.A.P.E. (during the weekend service and in C.L.A.S.S. 301). Plus, Davidson notes he has been at the church for 15 years and earned credibility along the way.

2. The staff needs to be well-informed. Since they are doing a lot of the work during the service, they need to know what is expected of them.

3. Don’t tell your volunteers until that morning. Word will leak out anyway. Let it be as much of a surprise as possible.

4. You’ll still want children’s ministry volunteers. Davidson wanted parents to be able to focus on the message without distraction.

5. Let the service be rough. That’s part of the experience. The roughness will help the congregation understand more clearly the value of volunteers during the weekend service.

If may be a crazy risk, but with preparation and planning, this could be just the thing to communicate a strong message at your church on the priesthood of all believers.

Tobin Perry lives in Woodstock, GA, with his wife and two sons. He now serves as a content design editor on the Mission Education Team at the North American Mission Board, S.B.C. Previously, Tobin served for six and a half years on staff of Saddleback Church, as a pastor in Southern Indiana, and as a missions journalist in Nicosia, Cyprus.

The article A Weekend with No Volunteers written by Tobin Perry was excerpted from www.volunteercentral.com web site, April 2010.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.