A few months ago, a good friend of mine was the Tech Director in a local church. But one day he walked into his boss’s office and simply quit his job. My friend is a husband and father of one boy and had recently purchased his first house. On the professional side, he always displayed incredible work ethics and commitment to the ministry. But he walked away from a job he’d held for years serving in a local church and decided to pursue a job outside the ministry with a technology company.
A few days later, we had the chance to meet and talk. I was curious to learn from him what had led him to make such a change that would not only affect his job but also his calling. He is a very energetic and creative person, always developing new ideas, and I was certain that when he left the ministry, the church would greatly miss him.
When we met, I asked him a simple question. “Why did you decide to leave the ministry?”
At first, he looked surprised. But he quickly corrected me and said, “I’m not leaving the ministry.”
With relief, I thought for a brief moment that he was not walking away from his calling. But I waited for a more comprehensive answer. Honestly, I was expecting some common answers like needed more money, was in search of new challenges, or even it was time to move on to something new.
Instead, he gave me a different answer. “I lost my passion for THIS ministry.” That response took us into a 2-hour conversation that opened my mind and heart to things I should consider as a pastor and ministry leader.
He explained that the environment he was in led him to lose his passion for the ministry where he served. This came to be as a warning sign. Was it possible that my leadership style could create an environment in a way that volunteers may also lose their passion for the ministry?
In the church tech world, it is easy for us, as ministry leaders and volunteers, to lose sight of WHY we do WHAT we do and instead, focus on things like perfection, excellence and performance ONLY. After all, we are mostly judged by those things. And they are, and should be, part of what we do. But perfection, excellence and performance ONLY should NEVER represent WHY and WHAT we do.
As ministries grow, churches also face an increased risk of replacing the passion volunteers and staff have for the ministry with complex, bureaucratic ways to achieve things like efficiency and excellence. Please, don’t get me wrong. I am all about efficiency and excellence. But I am also convinced that we must make every effort to lead people by our deep passion for God’s purpose in our own lives.
So, what can we, as ministry leaders, do to keep reaching for excellence without driving out the passion our volunteers should have for the ministry where they serve? Here are few things I think may help us to achieve these goals.
- The WHY comes before the WHAT
Many times we ask our volunteers to know the job and do it well, because excellence pleases God. True, God deserves our best. But remember, first, to serve Him. In any capacity, it is an act of worship.
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ” Luke 4:5-8
Serving in church should not be associated with a job you do. It requires commitment, energy and sacrifice, so you must find your passion first (this rule can also apply to your job, but I am only referring to volunteer work at church). That is what will allow you to fully experience WHY you do WHAT you do. During my last few years of leading volunteers, I intentionally devoted time to have front and center a clear understanding that WHAT they did every weekend had an eternal value. Even if what they did was done from behind the scenes, the reality of its value never changed. In church, real excellence is driven by a true passion for what you do for God and others.
- Passion is contagious
People most likely will follow ministry leaders who display real and genuine passion for the ministry they serve. Many times, people will come to you first because there is something attractive about your ministry to them. For example, if they like kids, their initial feeling may be to serve in a children’s ministry. If they have some interest in technology, they may feel like serving with the tech team. The problem is that these initial feelings do not usually translate into long-term commitment. Anything driven by passion will generate commitment, because now the person doesn’t just do something they like, now they serve with PURPOSE. Ministry leaders must display they passion for the ministry they serve so other can see and follow.\
- Make it relational
Sometimes ministry leaders feel that for some unknown reason, volunteers are less interested in serving, or maybe less committed to the schedule. Maybe it is because more and more they feel like they are part of a transactional environment instead of relational ministry. God designed us to have a relationship with Him (1 Corinthians 1:9 – God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.) and each other (Romans 12:9-10 – Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.) When serving in ministry, relationship should be the driving force behind how people serve with you in the first place.