Seventh-day Adventist churches often find the nominating committee (NC) process challenging. To find volunteers for ministries seems more difficult, leaders are burning out, new ministries flounder, members are unaware of their spiritual gifts, and some do not serve at all. We could also mention the power struggles, the need for clear ministry descriptions, the lack of training, the importance of affirming volunteers, and the missing element of ongoing support.
Hence, we need a broader view of strategic volunteer support. Placing people in service consists of more than getting a “Yes!” from a member and handing them a key to a Sabbath School classroom. People need to be guided into the ministry that matches their God-given gifts and then supported in that ministry. The NC does not (and was not meant to) “do it all.”
Here are 25 tips to broaden and strengthen the work of the NC. Some of these ideas precede committee work, some happen within the committee, and some are critical follow-up steps to help sustain members in their ministries.
Educate your board. If you plan to make changes in how you do the NC, educate your board, get their support and make moderate changes. Modifying the NC seems to be a hot button for some members. Misunderstandings can easily happen. Lay out a clear plan and proposal.
Train the NC. We assume everyone knows how to “do” the NC. But why not go a step further? Cast a vision with you committee that helps them see the importance of matching members’ gifts with ministries. Discuss the importance of confidentiality. Guide them through tips that will help them know how to invite people into ministry.
Thank members for serving. One of the simplest and overlooked parts of volunteer service in the church is affirmation. People want to make a difference, but often feel overworked and under-thanked. There are many creative ways to thank members for serving. How about having the NC write personal Thank-You cards to all volunteers? Also, encourage all calls to serving members to beginning with a sincere, “Thank you for serving.” You will be surprised at how many people will respond by saying, “No one has ever thanked me for serving in our congregation.”
Review offices with the board. Before the NC begins its work, go over all the current offices and positions with the church board to determine if there are any changes that need to be made (additions or deletions). There may be new ministries that need to begin. Perhaps some ministries have fulfilled their purpose and need to be retired.
Consider a two-year term. The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual allows for a one or two year term for offices in the church. This can save a lot of NC work, especially in larder churches, and a two-year term allows ministry teams to grow. Not all ministries may fit a two-year term (such as school board positions). Some churches conduct a midterm evaluation to see if there are issues that need attention.
Interview last year’s leaders. How many times have you sat on a committee and heard people say, “I wonder what the needs are in that ministry?” or “I think, but I’m not sure, maybe that leader wants more help”? Instead of guessing, why not ask? Use a simple interview tool, determine who the ministry leaders are and interview them. Have NC members each contact one or two leaders and then report back at the next committee. Tell leaders, “We are not calling to ask you to serve, though that may happen. We are first collecting information so we know what the needs are in each ministry.”
Work on leadership positions first. If you are building a Sabbath School ministry team, first find the leader and then incite that leader to give input. These leaders will need to work with the people you suggest. Let them have a say. They are not voting members, but will probably have good ideas. If a leader suggests people who are not a good match, work with them on this.
Identify equippers and doers. Ephesians 4:11, 12 speaks of some gifted people who “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (NRSV). Leaders in the church help to equip team members in ministry. Leaders think “we,” not “me.” These equippers are cheerleaders of their team and work to help each member successfully do their part. A “doer” tends to focus on their single area service one on the team. We need doers, but equippers make better leaders. With a doew placed as a leader, the ministry may suffer and die.
Encourage gifts-based ministry. Help committee members to “match” members with ministry positions based on spiritual gifts (and definitions) for the committee to use while searching for the right fit. Discourage “filling the slots” and “getting the job done,” which has less to do with developing members and more to do with efficiency.
Leave openings. Is it better to fill every position even if the match is not good? It depends. There are ministries that would die or negatively impact the church if they were left open (for example, the church treasurer). But other ministries may not be may not crucial, especially if you placed the “wrong” person in that position. We’ve all heard stories of enthusiastic new members serving as elders. Not a good idea. Even the Church Manual discourages this. If a ministry needs someone, but a match cannot be made, ask a seasoned member to carry this ministry until someone else can be found and trained.
Advertise ministry openings. Create a place on your bulletin board (or put up a table in your foyer) and call it, “The Service Center.” Advertise ministry openings with clear job descriptions. Interested members are then interviewed and placed by someone from the NC. One extra tip: do not advertise leadership positions. They are “by invitation only” jobs. You might find a willing person who is a poor match to lead a ministry. Rather, advertise assistant positions.
Invite people to prayerfully consider a position. When a NC member calls to talk with someone, ask them if this is a good time to talk. After presenting the position, say, “We would like you to prayerfully consider this position. You can call me back after you’ve prayed about it.” Demonstrate to your members that they are considering spiritual ministry.
Use ministry description. We call them “ministry” vs. “job” descriptions in order to help members know they are truly “ministers” in the body of Christ. You can find many samples of these. The North American Division, for example, has created a set called “Responsibilities in the Local Church” (available through www.adventsource.org). Determine if the church organization in your area has such resources. If you hand these to a potential volunteer, you might say, “This is a broad description to give you an idea about this ministry. We don’t expect you to follow every detail.”
Help people see the essence of each ministry. What statement would attract you more to a ministry position? “Would you wash tables after potluck?” or “Would you help provide a comfortable atmosphere for members and guests to fellowship in after services?” The essence of each ministry helps communicate to members that every job builds up the body of Christ.
Analyze “No” responses. When a NC member calls and invites someone to prayerfully consider serving in a ministry and they receive a “No” answer, don’t drop it. Think about what this “No” means. For instance, “No” could mean: “Not now, this is bad timing.” (then ask, “When do you think would be a better time?”) Or, “No, I don’t feel qualified.” (Then ask, “If training was provided, would that make a difference?”) Or, “No, I’m not interested.” (Then ask, “What ministry area would interest you?”)
Deal with poor matches. What if you have members with long tenures in positions that don’t really match their gifts? Try exploring their gifts and telling them, “We are not maximizing your gifts in this position. Your gifts would better be used in this other position.” Also, remember that a poor match is different from a poor attitude (or other issue).
Use a database to track gifts. Most church database programs allow you to create custom fields. Use this feature to track the spiritual gifts of your members, especially agter conducting a gifts seminar. This database can be invaluable to your NC.
Clear children’s workers. Every adult that works with children should be cleared in order to avoid problems with convicted sex offenders, for instance. For example, the Upper Columbia Conference provides volunteer service information forms that must be filled out by anyone working with children ages 0-18. Check with your conference for similar forms. A shorter form is used for annual updates.
Ask everyone in the church to serve. Every part of the body of Christ is important. Don’t overlook inviting all members to serve somewhere. When you finish your work, review all the active members and divide their names and interview them for service. Use an “Inviting People into the Ministry” interview form. You may expect some “No” responses, but you will still communicate to these members that “we need you.”
Provide several avenues to service. The NC is one way to invite people into ministry. But it can be a limited way (for instance, meets once a year, doesn’t teach people about gifts). A gifts class can be another avenue for people into ministry. Also, for some positions, a leader’s initiative in finding people to serve can be valuable. Make sure you have a system for clearing these volunteers.
Discourage silos. Most of us have seen silos – tall round structures used by farmers to store silage for winter feeding. Some members function in silos. They are serving apart from the body, not connected to the vision. Encourage every ministry leader to consider how their work is a part of the larger body.
Broaden support. Ongoing help will strengthen your volunteers. Consider providing training (seminars, materials, on-the-job, periodicals, etc.), affirmation (words of appreciation), feedback (both encouraging and guiding), and evaluation (a 30-minute annual meeting to review their ministry).
Teach and preach about spiritual gifts. If you suddenly expect all your members to be clear about gifts during the NC process, you will be disappointed. Preach about Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. Provide a spiritual gifts class at least once a year to help members understand how God has gifted them. Use resources like Connections (available through www.creativeministry.org).
One plus two. Here’s a short vision statement to encourage everyone to serve in the church. Tell your members, “Here is the minimum involvement we hope for from every member. ONE stands for everyone attending our weekly worship services. TWO represents two more ways to be involved. One way is to be in a ministry that FEEDS you (like a small group). The other way is to be in a ministry where you SERVE. Everyone needs to serve somewhere. It may be only one hour a week (minimally) or four to five hours a week (heavier responsibilities).”
Pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Giver of all good gifts. Pray before every NC for the Spirit to lead and guide in selecting members for positions. WE want the right people, in the right places, for the right reasons, at the right time!