What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?
March 8, 2012 Jeremy Amick

It is a little odd when people call me by the wrong name. I have been called “Jerry” quite often, “Germy” by my elementary school classmates, and “Jer-boy” by my loving grandmother. Names are important and the use (or misuse) can provoke some emotions within.

There was an interesting conversation regarding names that emerged last week on the CVC blog. Should we use the word “volunteer” to describe someone serving without pay in the church? The answer to that question is going to be determined more by context than semantics. In its pure form, the word “volunteer” can have a positive meaning.Originally, the term was used of military service, where one voluntarily enlisted to serve his or her country, as a willful sacrifice of oneself for a greater good. If we lay a biblical foundation that volunteer ministry is being the “living sacrifice” that Paul wrote about in Romans 12:1, then the use of “volunteer” would be effective. However, if a paid church leader projected a demeaning mindset that unpaid members were “just volunteers,” then I can see how this would be a barrier.

In the CVC Equipping Institutes, we stress the importance of analyzing the culture of your church and using words that edify and encourage those serving in ministry. You definitely want your terminology to work for you and not against you. However, there is a greater question: “How do church leaders affirm and recognize the efforts of people who serve?”

As we study the Bible, we can see that most of the people who served the Lord were not paid professionals. Few received formal training or even looked to be qualified to do the work before being called to serve. However, God does miraculous things in those who are willing to follow Him. Church leaders must find creative and authentic ways to show members that their work is making a difference. And be sure to call them by their own name.


  1. ANdee 12 years ago

    Good insight! I have long used the term “volunteer,” though more often I say “volunteer minister” just to keep the peace! But I don’t shy away from the term for one simple reason: most everyone understands the basic meaning. Sure, they may have had a bad experience somewhere along the way that produces a negative image, but I see that as an opportunity to replace that negative experience with a positive one. I think more people shy away from being called a minister than a volunteer. There’s just less ambiguity in using volunteer from the outset. Then I can encourage and guide them into a deeper understanding and acceptance of volunteer MINISTRY .

  2. Pam 12 years ago

    Like your tho’ts. I usually say “servant leader” but someitmes volunteer is the only word that really fits and I agree ANdee that everyone knows what that means.

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