In the past view days, I've had the opportunity to read a few books, Good to Great and the Social Sectors (Jim Collins), Volunteer Revolution (Bill Hybels), and The Story We Find Ourselves In (Brian McLaren). I hope to blog a little big about each of these, but right now I want to summarize what I consider the key things I got out of Volunteer Revolution.
This short book of 139 pages summarizes Bill Hybels' experience of recruiting volunteers to serve in his church and his simple theology behind it. He says that in the beginning of Willow Creek Community Church's existence he and his friends had a "Whatever It Takes!" attitude. Because they were young they could serve with reckless abandon in very extreme ways. Hybels has fond memories of these times, but regrets that he pushed people too hard, suggesting that possibly even a couple marriages of his friends failed because of Hybels pushing them to invest too much time in the church. During this time he wasn't thinking much about helping people find the right area of giftedness and passion to serve in.
After seeing the damaging effects of this style of ministry management, Willow Creek then swung in the complete opposite direction by not having people serve until they had done a large amount of spiritual gift testing. They were trying to prevent burnout. Hybels suggests that they were overprecautious at this point and that he evententually realized that spiritual gifts tests couldn't be accurate until someone had tried out a number of different ministry opportunities to see what fits.
Through this process they arrived at their current approach which can largely be summarized by the word EXPERIMENTATION. They believe that people should be invited to experiment in a number of different ministries before making a commitment to be a continual volunteer there. They have developed this philosophy into what they call First Serve.
I really liked this philosophy, which I just discovered has now been packaged into a user-friendly four-week church program called Living Beyond Myself. Ironically, without knowing the connection between this book and this program, my older brother told me last week that his church was in the middle of this particular program and he was really growing through it.
Hybels says there are two keys to sticking with it as a volunteer in the church. The first is "to gradually align oneself closer and closer to authentic areas of passion and spiritual giftedness. The second way is to serve within the context of community" (122).
He says, "I've said many times in recent years that I have two goals for the rest of my life. First, I want to do the work God asks me to do. I've never known joy outside of pursuing God's calling on my life. Whenever I've wandered even five degrees off that course, I've lost the sense of God's smile that I can't live without. Second, I want to do the work God calls me to do in community with people I love. While most of the serving circles in which I now sit are not volunteer circles, the same principle applies" (123).
I agree with Hybels' philosophy of volunteering. I know that many times, especially in older established churches, we practially have to beg people to take positions of leadership. They're lots of work and experience little gratitude. Hybels also says that expressing gratitude is a key to maintaining volunteers.
A very good chapter in this book is chapter 5, called "What? Me, A Priest?" where Hybels lays out clearly and with simplicity the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
One thing that must be said about this book is something that the friend who loaned it to me told me. There's a lot of stories, but not much Scripture. After beginning the book, I appreciated the warning. Instead of doing a lot of explanation about a particular passage of Scripture, I've noticed that Hybel's is the type to just take a short passage of Scripture at face value and then live it out literally and radically. I respect his obedience to God's word.