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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Connect" (Nelson Searcy)

TITLE: Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers
AUTHOR: Nelson Searcy
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012, (240 pages)

Have you ever wondered about the 80/20 pareto principle, where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people? If you're like me, you will probably be familiar about situations whereby there are so much to be done, and so few volunteers to help share the workload. What if there is a way to increase the number of workers in any ministry? What if the harvest is plentiful, and there is an opportunity to help groom many more workers for the harvest? Will you jump at that chance?

Enters this book by Nelson Searcy. Filled with years of hard-earned experience and disappointment, Searcy shares some of the ideas and methods that he has used to increase the number of volunteers in any ministry. There are four phases to this adventure of connecting volunteers with ministry work. First, a ministry mindset must be instilled. Ministry is about servanthood and all ministers serve. If we believe in the priesthood of all believers, than every believer serves in some way. This ministry mindset and servant system is made up of 8 biblical principles.
  1. Ministry means to serve
  2. Serving is an act of putting the needs of others before our own needs
  3. The goal of the ministry system is to help people become more like Jesus
  4. You cannot become more like Jesus Christ unless you learn to be a servant
  5. Serving opens people's hearts to God and therefore is part of worship
  6. If people aren't serving, they aren't truly worshiping and growing in their faith
  7. Mobilizing people for ministry is part of discipleship
  8. The role of the pastor is to equip people for ministry.
In Phase Two, we Create Service Opportunities to mobilize new servers for existing ministries, move experienced servers to newer ones, and not to be too caught up about the need to believe first before we belong. There are several ideas shared in this book, such as the idea of a ministry/volunteer fair, mobilizing new members immediately after membership or baptism, preaching about it, making it easy for volunteers to sign up, and making known all the ministry opportunities available. One of the best ideas is for a personal invitation to volunteer.

In Phase Three, Searcy talks about the Ministry Ladder, which is a clear path that encourages members to grow slowly and aspire toward leadership. After all, service is about discipleship. Knowing how easy it is for volunteers either to fall off the ladder or get discouraged, Searcy provides four structural reliefs.
  1. Ministry ladders are made for growth, not control
  2. Allocate places for stress and release
  3. Measurability
  4. Climbing the right ladder according to giftings.
Phase Four talks about celebration and reproducing servants. It encourages leaders to help volunteers get a Good Experience (GE). Volunteers need a clear idea of the timeline of their length of service (TL). They are to be challenged to reproduce their own ministry areas, to teach a new volunteer (CTR). They are challenged to be accountable for ministry positions and motivated to continue serving with joy (AM). They are encouraged to form good networks of getting new people into the ministry flow (GN). Clarity, consideration, caring, and courtesy are the four ways to empower volunteers.

My Thoughts

This is an exciting book and holds lots of promise for tired ministry workers, wondering when they can pass the baton so that they can take a rest. The story is far too common for people who work so much till they burn out. This need not be so, says Searcy. In fact, as I think about Searcy's model, it is quite a creative way to practice discipleship in churches. Rather than to wait and see, or to sit and rot, we can volunteer. We can serve. We can encourage people to do something as a way to learn and to grow. The role of the pastor is to equip people for ministry, to care and to encourage ministry workers to delight themselves in the Lord. The point about meeting needs in the Church is well-taken. When we fill ministry positions on the basis of needs, it only highlights the lack of preparation and foresight in the leadership of that ministry.

This book may very well save your ministry from collapsing. For churches that are not sure of a discipleship model, perhaps, this book can be a start to your discipleship program. As I reflect on this book, I can offer up these three thoughts.

  • If you want to grow but do not know how for now, then serve.
  • If you want to serve but do not know what, then ask.
  • If you do not know what to ask, then pray.
Richly practical and moderately theoretical, the ideas in this book are not only tried and tested in Searcy's church, it will excite leaders in other churches to try at least some of it. Great resource!

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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