We Must Offer “Toe in the Water” Experiences
People want to get involved in the ministry and mission in and through our local churches, but we must offer opportunities for people to “dip a toe in the water”, rather than expecting them to “jump right in”! This illustration was used a few years ago when Doug Anderson was offering a workshop in our district. I have also heard the illustration recently of offering people on-ramps to get involved in the life and ministry of our local churches.
Many of our churches are filled with people who have become a well-oiled machine when it comes to many ministry areas. We may list an opportunity to serve in our bulletin, on our church website or newsletter, but if we don’t actually make a place for others to serve, it will not be effective.
First of all, inviting people to participate is much more effective when done one-on-one. Some people may feel comfortable “signing up” to participate but most people are more likely to respond to a personal invitation. Not only do we need to personally invite people, we need to let them participate! Even if this means that some of us, who serve regularly in a particular ministry, need to step aside for a season to give others an opportunity. We also need to remember that “the way we’ve always done things” may not be the only way that something can be accomplished. Sometimes a fresh perspective can be a good thing. Even if the newbie doesn’t do things as efficiently as those with experience might, we need to guide and answer questions as needed but also get out of the way….Who knows, they might even improve on “the way we’ve always done things”!
Secondly, if we attract new people to our churches and do not give them an opportunity to share their gifts and serve, then they will not become engaged and take ownership. They will either become pew warmers or may move on to participate elsewhere. This also applies to small group Bible studies and other formational and fellowship opportunities. Offering short term options is likely to draw more interest than year-long studies for someone to get their “toes wet”.
Each and every church is God’s church, not “our” church. There is no one right or wrong way to accomplish most things, assuming that we do not stray from the doctrine and discipline of the United Methodist Church. As we invite others to worship and serve alongside us, genuinely and generously step aside to give them the opportunity to do so. This can help them grow and mature. Then, if lead, we can seek new ways that God may be calling us to serve in another way. We can make more disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world!
In all things, may we give God the glory!
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