What could happen if volunteers really believed they weren't "just volunteers"?

The words we use are full of connotations.

Would you rather buy a “pre-owned” car or a “used” car? See what I mean? It’s the same car, but, depending on which words are used, the connotation is different.

While I love the concept of someone freely giving their time and talents to serve without pay, the term “volunteer,” when used in ministry, often seems to carry a connotation of “second best” or “not really that important.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a wonderful, committed, effective non-paid servant in a ministry refer to him or herself as “just a volunteer.” For whatever reason, non-paid workers in the church have subconsciously picked up on the very unbiblical connotation that they are “ just volunteers.”

This should bother us because it's a big, fat lie.


I contend that the Bible clearly teaches that every Christian is a full-time minister. (Do your own study on the "priesthood of the believer" or keep reading for more info below.) Therefore, I don’t like the term “volunteer” when used in a ministry context.

I think we need a new term for volunteers—one that doesn’t contain the second-class baggage.

When speaking of someone who generously gives time to serve Jesus but doesn't get paid for it, I propose we start using a term like "ministry leader" or _____ (fill in  your idea here). If enough of us get on board with terminology like this, we might be able to exchange the word “volunteer” along with its less desirable connotations for a much more biblically accurate and dignifying term.

Who knows what could happen? 

People who graciously serve in ministry without compensation might quit acting like "just volunteers" and might start acting like, well, "ministry leaders." The potential ramifications for mobilizing the latent volunteer power sitting (literally) in our churches could be revolutionary.

Once we’ve replaced the term "volunteer" with something like “ministry leader,” we can move on to changing the term “committees” to “teams” or perhaps to my personal favorite, “cadres.” This, too, would be revolutionary. 

However, for now, let’s take one revolution at a time. Way too many great people of God see themselves as “just volunteers.”  

I contend it's the biggest lie in ministry.

The revolution begins here. Starting with YOU. And YOU spreading it to others.

Here's how YOU can do it.

<—Click image to enlarge for viewing. 

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Josh said…
Thanks for this Bill! I'm going to bring this up with the rest of the Elder Board at our Church here in Midland, MI. We're in a bit of a transition, and one of the things we want to accomplish is to better engage everyone for ministry and not just leave it to the professionals.
Thanks again!
- Josh
Bill Allison said…
How exciting is that! Prayed for you RIGHT NOW!

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