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Using Your Website for Volunteer Management
By: Rudy Heintzelman

In Ephesians 4:11-12, it is clear that the role of a church staff is to equip laity so they can "do the works of service." Yet, we as pastors and staff seem to have gotten the idea that we should be doing the ministry ourselves. How big is the problem? A typical day of a church staff member sheds light.  
           
Let's say you start your day at 6:30 a.m. with a Men's Bible Study. The pastor has high hopes of discipling this group of 12 into mature Christian leaders, but today only five people show up. Next, when you arrive at the office, your secretary informs you that she needs the bulletin information. You're handed messages from seven disgruntled members about the previous night's meeting to allow the youth to paint their space. And, you're reminded about the 10:30 Women's Bible Study at which you are scheduled to speak. Oh, and don't forget the two-hour working lunch with the Chair of Finance to discuss how the downturn in the economy has affected giving and to set the agenda for tonight's meeting.

After the Bible Study, you head for your luncheon. While there, you receive an urgent message on your Blackberry that a recently retired member was rushed to the ER with chest pains. A staff meeting and pre-marital counseling session follow, and, of course, the 7 p.m. Finance Committee meeting lasts until nearly 9 p.m. Now all you can do is head home, totally exhausted, and hope for sleep before starting it all over again the next day.

The "doing" of ministry has a way of "undoing" Christian leaders. Yet, where is the active, busy body of Christ that could help take on some of these works of service? They're out there, some even serving, but not necessarily in the right place. And that's a part of the problem.

Unfortunately, churches often stick people into slots for which they are not called or gifted. These members become discouraged and do a poor job even though they give their best efforts. Often, they become discouraged enough to slip out "the back door" to another church or simply drop out of church altogether.  Somehow, pastors feel successful because a warm body has been recruited for the slot. But, a process that leads to discouragement or departure does not translate into effectiveness in ministry.

There must be a better way.

Suppose we had a whole congregation functioning as a unified body doing ministry, where gifts are recognized and identified, and acts of service stem from the passionate use of these gifts? This is how true ministry takes place and how people get excited about doing the ministry God has called them to do.  Excitement about their ministry builds excitement about their church. When they get excited about their church, they start inviting others to attend and enthusiasm for ministry becomes contagious.

This better way can come from the development of a system where members tell us where they sense a passion and call to service. We are not smart enough or wise enough to know where each person is gifted to serve, but God is! We certainly need to raise the expectation level where every person is expected to serve, and we need to provide our congregation with a broad range of opportunities for service. Then, we need to let them tell us where they are called to serve and be sure to engage them in ministry.

So, where is the practical application? What we are talking about here is a process of identifying gifts, identifying opportunities for service, scheduling activities, utilizing volunteers, and managing the details of the projects themselves. Fortunately, every bit of that can be done using your church Web site as the central hub to help members follow the process and maintain accountability in an unbelievably efficient way.

Web sites and access to Web sites give people access to a process. All of the software on the Web is out there ranging from identifying spiritual gifts to finding places of service that match the gifts through managing the opportunities and assigning people to individual jobs. It can be combined on your Web site through multiple Web-based resources or through the use of an application created specifically for managing volunteer-based church activities.

Because so much of church work comes with privacy concerns, you'll find that most Web-based tools developed for managing volunteer activities offer the ability to password-protect access to opportunities and certainly member information. Of course, not all members will be able to access the church Web site, yet instead of seeing this as a problem, it could be seen as another opportunity for a fellow member to assist with Internet access and computer skills.

The efficiency of technological tools helps members stay on task, whatever the task may be. The use of a Web site allows for a decentralized process, which means everyone involved can access information and make progress on their own schedules. But churches also have managerial tools for leadership and oversight.

The use of technology is a very important resource, particularly for the connected demographics using Web sites, e-mail, and texting every day for information and communication. God calls people and equips them with gifts. That part never changes. Yet, church Web sites and volunteer management tools give church staff a method to organize opportunities in a way that leads to productive, meaningful, eternity-impacting service among the laity.

Rudy Heintzelman served for 26 years on the staff of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. E-zekiel.com is a product of Axletree Media, a Christian-based technology company committed to serving in partnership with the local church to achieve the Great Commission, www.axletreemedia.com.

Sidebar
Ways to Improve Your Church's Online Presence
By Chuck Hochreiter

Internet users across the globe, but especially in America, are more devoted to seeking out spiritual answers than during any other previous time. The Internet is shaping Christianity in ways few people in the traditional church would have imagined. Millions of people are meeting online to pray, discuss their faith, seek spiritual guidance, and study the Bible. Churches need to respond to these growing needs.

There are three main ways that having a Web site benefits a church:

1. Communication
It can help effectively present the Gospel to a seeker-sensitive audience and grow the Kingdom.

2. Extension
It dramatically widens the range of your ministry by fostering relationships with people and organizations outside of your immediate locale.

3. Enhancement
It helps augment your existing local ministry by providing supplemental ways that will help to support your church body.

There are some important things to keep in mind when using Web sites to reach out and communicate.

Be mindful of your first priority, which is to focus on ministry.

Be conversational and encourage dialogue. Communication is a two-way street, and people like to be heard, as well as hear.

Be community-oriented. People enjoy community; we are relational creatures. That is how God designed us, so be inviting.

Be respectful of everyone. Digital communication, especially on the Web and through texting and e-mail, can present boundary problems. Therefore, when communicating, always do so in a responsible manner to maintain trust and integrity.

Be servant-minded. Do your best to provide information not only for the wants but also for the needs of those with whom you communicate. Service comes in two main categories: those that are regularly available and those that are available by request. Not everyone will want, or need, everything you have to offer. Make it easy for users to find and/or subscribe to things that are of value to them.

Be devoted. If you plan on using digital technology for communication and building relationships, you must be committed to being available, consistent, and timely with all communication. If you cannot honor this commitment, you will lose credibility with those with whom you hope to build relationships. They will then see you as unreliable and will lose interest in what you have to say.

Ultimately, there must be a balance between using the Internet along with its new forms of connection and communication to stay relevant to the culture without compromising relational physical interaction. Social isolationism caused by digital communication alone is a growing problem and will not foster Christian maturation; it will only hinder it.

Technology has its place in the world today, without question, but a church must be careful not to let the technology force it to compromise the necessary need to connect relationally through physical interaction.

Chuck Hochreiter is marketing director for Elexio, www.elexio.com.









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