I had a great conversation yesterday with my friend Kim, a former Summit gal who was back in town for the weekend from her new gig in Louisville.  During Kim’s time at the Summit, she was the quintessential volunteer…working with Starting Point, First Impressions, singing in the worship choir, co leading a small group…you name it.

Kim dropped by the office and we talked about Mark Waltz’s latest book, Lasting Impressions, which I reviewed here a while back.  She’s working on a study guide to go along with the book, envisioning a day when small groups can use it to figure out how to take friendly connections to a whole new micro-level.

One of Kim’s phrases that caught my attention was “instruments of change.”  Too often church volunteers enter into robo-mode: hand out the worship guide.  Park the car.  Pour the coffee.  Change the diaper.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  It’s a vicious cycle that, while efficient, can be easily robbed of personality, creativity, and the organic feel of authentic hospitality.

Every church in America has golden-hearted volunteers who will do precisely what they are told to do until Jesus comes back.  While admirable, the problem with that is that they often don’t use the good sense that God gave a billy goat.  Rather than creatively addressing needs, they faithfully work their way down a to do list, mechanically interacting with guests rather than seeking to know their stories.

Repeat after me: I want my volunteer teams to know the why, not necessarily the what.  (Yes, you’ve heard that before.  I never claimed to be anything more than a broken record.)  Once the why is in place, the what will take care of itself. 

A volunteer who is an instrument of change can’t help but break away from the to do list.  They simply must exercise creativity. They have to bend the paradigm.  And in doing so, they will make differences in the lives of guests.  They’ll view themselves as a minister, not simply a volunteer.  They’ll take ownership as they take leadership.  And in the end, the church will be filled with authentic servants who are transforming the hospitality culture from the inside out.