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How to Motivate Volunteers (and Even Staff Members) To Get Excited About Church

One of the biggest frustrations I see in churches today is the challenge of recruiting and inspiring volunteers. At the same time, keeping a church staff excited about ministry is often difficult as well. I actually visited a church a few years ago where most of the staff (and these were leaders) never actually attended the services on weekends. They felt they worked at the church all week, so why show up during the services?

Yes. Weird.

Fortunately, that’s a rare problem, but for many churches, inspiring and motivating staff – and especially volunteers – is an ongoing and often difficult job.

However, Kathleen and I have been speaking at Sabaoth Church in Milan, Italy recently, and at this remarkable church, we discovered the solution to motivating staff and volunteers.

For most churches, “ministry” happens on Sunday. That’s when most people tend to have a salvation experience, come forward for prayer, or join the church. That’s great, but the problem with that model is that it’s usually pastor driven. In other words, when people have a transforming spiritual experience on a Sunday, it’s almost always because of the pastor’s message or some other pastor-involved element.

While I have no problem with that, it doesn’t create a very powerful connection with volunteers and most staff members.

But in Milan, Sabaoth Church is mostly young people, and while Sunday is a powerful time of worship, teaching, and ministry, they also spend an enormous amount of time taking the church to the streets.

The team has a large music and drama ministry made up of some staff, but mostly volunteers, and they travel around Italy and beyond staging elaborate street theater. But more than just producing an evangelistic play, they include magic shows, dance events, and even breathing fire! Needless to say these spectacular shows draw huge crowds – especially in vacation spots.

After the show, they always give people an opportunity to accept Christ, be prayed for, or experience other types of ministry, and the response is pretty amazing.

The result is that it’s not necessarily the pastor or teaching team doing the ministry, it’s the volunteers and staff that make up the drama, music, and communication teams. When those volunteers see such dramatic results from their own work reaching non-believers on the streets, it’s a powerful and intoxicating experience. This isn’t pastor led – it’s volunteer led, and I’ve seen few things get volunteers so motivated and excited.

Performing on the streets and seeing such a significant result of their ministry really gets these volunteers fired up. They don’t need to be coaxed or begged into volunteering, they’re 100% onboard.

Your church may not have a music or arts outreach like this church in Milan, but staff and volunteers need to participate on the front lines of ministry. Because as any soldier will tell you, there’s a huge difference between being stationed behind the lines versus leading the charge.

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