I have had the unique privilege of volunteering the past year in our youth group. I have had several conversations with those within the Church that usually starts with something like, “that’s certainly needed” or “you are doing a great thing by serving them.” The unfortunate reality is many assume volunteering is based upon “what I can do for them” rather than “how may God be forming His people?” Within volunteering, there is a dangerous assumption that “my wisdom is needed” or “my leadership will help.” I am not at all discrediting the credentials and experience that volunteers offer. Great Christian leaders are needed in every ministry. Ministries cannot function without them. What I am suggesting is that the assumption of volunteerism in the Church should be gently corrected and redefined.
The Church is the way in which God has chosen to express Himself on earth. The Body of Jesus Christ is revealed across all ages within the Church. The beauty of Jesus is not defined by particular programs, small groups—not even through the next building project. The pastor is not entitled to be the sole “representative” of Christ’s Body. God uses people as His ambassadors. We are not serving a cool, trendy, hip vision that the pastor has given, nor are we serving to “check-off the box” so that we can prove we are involved in the local church. We are serving Christ’s Body and, by the Holy Spirit, becoming more like Christ. Collectively, as members of the Church, we all represent a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ.
God chooses children and youth not simply as “those whom I can serve” but as primary avenues for heart transformation. As the Church, we are formed by all its members. We are not formed by programs, functions, and good ideas. God has chosen people to bear His image to the world. There is a unique privilege to serve, love, and commune with the members of Christ’s Body.
Today’s youth are primarily being formed through a kingdom of image—social media, self-centeredness, uncanny distraction—all contribute to an era of me. Volunteers, then, are encouraged to “model” true discipleship to youth, as if the youth are the ones who are the ones who need corrected. In reality, we all are discipled by the age of “me” and—as one Body—are to explore, discern, and bear Christ’s image to the world. We do this in community.
The Church needs great leaders and volunteers. Lay leadership comes as a premium in many churches. There is no denying that. Perhaps, though, we can champion what it truly means as Christ’s body to be “rooted and established in love. . . together with all the Lord’s holy people” (Eph 3:17-18). Furthermore, as we serve one another in community, that we all recognize how unfathomable Christ’s love truly is so that we all “may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Perhaps we leaders are the ones in which God is molding, changing, and forming through the ones in whom we serve.