Much like most churches in North America, our church reaches the community we serve through the godly people who make up our membership and regular attenders.
While the 21st Century church (the Body of Christ) has more increased competition for members’ time than ever before, men and women who volunteer still make up the majority of those serving the Kingdom of Christ. In other words, even though our multimedia world gives us more options for how we spend our time, volunteers are still the critical backbone of most churches.
That model has certainly shifted some in the last few decades. Beginning at some point in the 1980s and gaining traction in the 1990s, the rise of America’s megachurch (currently defined by weekly attendance of 2,000 or more) saw church bodies that were served by predominantly paid staff members.
However, while megachurches garner headlines both good and bad and have given a platform to so-called “celebrity pastors” in America, most statistical models suggest that somewhere between 85-90% of America’s churches are still less than 200 regular attenders/members on average. Not only do these smaller churches statistically reach more people for Christ/salvation, they rely most heavily on volunteers to meet the myriad needs of their respective communities.
Put simply, the local Body of Christ in your community probably couldn’t function effectively without volunteers that help keep that church running effectively.
Our church fits that model as well. While I am paid and we have a few others who are as well, we are not necessarily the backbone of the church. While in no way attempting to diminish the role of pastor or paid staff, it would be arrogant and/or naïve to believe we make the church function. In every type of situation from baby showers to Lord’s Supper observance to dealing with our children’s areas (and so much more), it’s our volunteers who serve selflessly who make sure the church is vital, healthy and meeting needs.
In this digital world, there is something unique and healthy about being a voice for the Kingdom (and social causes) online. But that online presence won’t ever be able to replace the hands and feet of Christ that is the volunteer in our churches. Those hands are the ones reaching the least of these in his name.
Christopher Dixon is the Chief Operating Officer of eLectio Publishing (electiopublishing.com) and the pastor of West Finley Baptist Church near Fordland, Mo.