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The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness

Book Review: The Volunteer Church: Mobilizing Your Congregation for Growth and Effectiveness by Leith Anderson and Jill Fox.

This book is packed with detailed ideas and storytelling from personal experience. The writing style is analytical with identification of problems and solutions to common volunteer challenges. Many biblical references support the volunteer structures outlined in the book.

This is a terrific book for anyone leading a local church, parachurch, or ministry. A wealth of wisdom is tucked into each chapter for recruiting, training, managing, and terminating volunteers. I’ve read several books on the subject and so far, this is the best one yet! The authors repeatedly emphasize exploring the spiritual gifts and adjusting the volunteer into positions where the gift are magnified. A reward system is outlined for thank volunteers- beyond the usual coffee mugs and annual thank-you lunch.

Many levels of volunteer placements are discussed as examples- from the youth ministry, ushers ministry, Bible camps, and small groups. It’s a well-rounded point of discussion from the experience of senior church leadership teams.

The Volunteer Church was developed out of the ministry of Leith Anderson at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where a vital and vibrant volunteer program boasting 4,000 participants grew under the leadership of Jill Fox. The principles and training have been applied in churches of all sizes and denominations in seminar settings across the country as well as at Wooddale Church.

In The Volunteer Church, leaders will

  • Learn how to effectively recruit and train volunteers
  • Discover how to build sustainable, long-lasting ministries led by volunteers
  • Find methods for encouraging and maintaining your volunteers for success
  • Know how to build teams of volunteers
  • Understand how to find the right service that fits a willing volunteer

By the time I finished the book I was so excited I immediately contacted our Womens Bible Cafe™ leadership team and asked them read it too! Together we are mapping out a plan for our volunteer team based on the Intel gathered from this valuable book. We were able to identify areas of strength and weakness in our existing program and create an action plan for future growth and development.

As a ministry director, I am exceptionally grateful to the authors for writing this resource handbook. It has already been beneficial to our team and is a handbook we’ll continue using in the future.

Favorite Quotes:

  • Religious organizations led the list of volunteering opportunities…at their core, churches are volunteer organizations.
  • Volunteering is one of the primary ways we become Christ-like.
  • The volunteer church is more than a slogan or a nice book title. It is God’s design, and it’s the biblical pattern.

About the Author:  Leith Anderson serves as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. For thirty-five years he was the pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He is a graduate of both Denver Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary.

Published: Zondervan (August 4, 2015)

Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash

Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When God Says Move Your Tents

Many of my friends are asking about the topic “move your tents” and it’s a great discussion! Let’s go back to Genesis when Abram moved his tents

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord. Genesis 13:14–18 (NIV).

Let’s go forward today. Several discussions are happening about the new advertising policy and pressure from a social media site to change our ministry name, or to be hidden as offensive content. In a live teleconference on January 21, 2019  I heard the CEO of this social media site say “If you post something that is generally wrong we’re not going to block that, we’re just not going to show it.”

When I started my online ministry 10 years ago it never occurred to me a gathering place for women would be considered “generally wrong” and banned. At my church we have mens groups, Mother of Preschoolers (MOPS), and womens Bible study. We also have coed groups with both men and women participating.

Today, in order to advertise our Bible studies on the social media platform our ministry needs to become genderless. So I’ve been fasting and praying and feel the Lord is saying “move your tents.” It took 10 years to build a online community centered around womens Bible study.

My page reach for Womens Bible Cafe™ dropped dramatically last year so I created a new page without a gender name. They did not shut down my page, they only showed the page to people who intentionally looked for it. #shadowbanning

Next I tried to boost a post from my new page to move my audience and learned the word “women” violates advertising standards. I made seven different appeals to merge the pages or to remove the word “women” from my large page, appeals denied. My appeals (phone calls and emails) were recorded by the social media site for their legal purposes.

Yes, the next threat will be the word “Bible” so I am building my author page more than my ministry page. My author page is in my name only, under the “public figure” category. This category seems to get a better reach than nonprofit organization category or religious organization category. I post with the same frequency and engage with the audience equally on my pages. This one…without a gender word or a religious word…is reaching more people.

My writing community is currently discussing book titles and how to advertise a book with gender words. One friend had her page shut down because of the offensive gender word “husband” which is also in her book title “How to Bless Your Husband.” She told me was not allowed to promote her new book on this social site. In December we lead a study for the book “Women of Christmas” by Liz Curtis Higgs and our posts for the study were hidden. #shadowbanned

Another page has the word “wife” in the page name and URL. This is what she posted: We’re so honored that hundreds of thousands of you are stepping up to invest in your MARRIAGE. So, for a limited time only we’re layering free shipping on top of all our sale prices for orders over $25. Get your marriage bundle today and draw closer to your spouse like you never thought possible. The social media site marked her as as political content and blocked her ad.

When I tried to post an ad in January 2019 to move my audience to new page this social site required me to review and accept their new genderless terms before allowing me to advertise again.

Keep in mind I do understand why this social media site has their new policy after a lawsuit from the ACLU. They are protecting their interests, seeking not to offend, and inclusive. Those are good reasons for the new policy as change is implemented. But they did not allow us to merge our existing page of 88,000 followers and will not allow us to advertise to our former page followers to let them know we’ve moved. #ouch 

My intent in posting this is article is to provide enough content so you’ll understand why our ministry name on social media is moving from Womens Bible Cafe™ and Mens Bible Cafe™ to Bible Cafe™

The heart of our ministry is unchanged.

We’re still an inclusive non denominational Christian Bible study, a parachurch (Parachurch organizations are Christian faith-based organizations that usually carry out their mission independent of church oversight. Most parachurch organizations, at least those normally called parachurch, are Protestant and Evangelical: wiki).

Living in Babylon…. and moving our tents for a #revival movement!

feature image source: Bigstock