Oftentimes, Ephesians 4:13, “…until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ,” is viewed in general terms, rather than through our congregation’s specific theology and practices. The Well Community Church in Fresno, California, interprets the verse to mean that every person should have a personal goal of spiritual maturity, and the church should help him or her reach that goal. Church leaders identified seven defining characteristics of what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like in their congregation, and how equipping church volunteers accomplishes this end.
When people at The Well talk about equipping church volunteers, it is about helping individuals and families to meet one of the specific characteristics, such as developing healthy families, or becoming socially responsible. Maturity-based equipping looks different because it is not focused solely on providing skills and competencies. It is focused on helping people grow in spiritual maturity, developing characteristics that can be easily transferred from church to home, business, community, and school.
So, what does a church do if the congregation is asking, “Equipping Church Volunteers…for what?”
Here are a few steps recommended by the leadership at The Well Community Church:
• Work with your leadership to develop a profile of a fully devoted follower of Christ serving in the life of your congregation. Is this person faithful in giving? Is this person active in a small group? Does this person have a balanced family life? Is this person seeking to be socially responsible? For every church and tradition, the list may be different, but what is important is to identify the profile.
• When your profile is identified, plan your activities, programs, staffing, and evaluation around the characteristics in the profile. Why do you have vacation Bible school? If the answer is “Because we’ve always had it,” re-evaluate your programming, and work to align your activities, even vacation Bible school, with your goals.
• Communicate this spiritually mature profile and its characteristics church wide. Do it often, in each program and activity. When the Well Community Church recently held a neighborhood service day, it was widely communicated that this was an effort to help each congregant become more socially responsible and not simply a good thing to do or a pleasant volunteer outing. The focus was on the value and goal of the activity, not the activity itself.
• Character-based equipping should become a natural part of providing feedback, doing program evaluations, prompting reflection and planning. In order to measure success with each person, ask how the equipping process helped the person to become more aligned with one of the values identified in the profile. Find out if your volunteers feel they are maturing spiritually, and let that be a measure of your success in equipping church volunteers.
Remember that there are many activities and interests in a person’s life, many of them outside of church, that will contribute to a person’s spiritual maturity. A holistic equipping ministry will take the time to engage every person to determine where he or she is on the maturity path, and how the church can support the person in his or her growth. We can’t say it enough—equipping church volunteers is not about getting things done, it’s about growing people in their faith.