Supporting the Supports

One of the beautiful strengths of the Baptist movement is our conviction that all believers are priests. Within those four words are numerous deep truths around access to God through Christ, participation in mission and ministry, and responsibility in the church. Everyone has a part to play.

But they don’t play it equally. As in a Shakespeare, one actor has a hundred lines and another has two. One may play four different parts, another is simply a tree. Jesus’ parables of responsibility often feature uneven participation, too. One servant’s entrusted with ten talents, another five, and another one. So uneven participation is not surprising – even among those who’ve been given the same amount of lines or talents, some give everything they’ve got, and some don’t.

We Baptists rightly love our culture of volunteerism – no one is forced to give anything – it’s all given freely from the heart. This is lovely, but it can also have a shadow side.

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There are some roles, like Treasurer or Worship Coordinator that are complex and involved and pretty much require a super-volunteer. But who has that much time to give? It’s the rich (who can live off reduced paid-work hours), the active-retired, the under-employed, uni students during summer, and those doing court-ordered community service. These are the ones who have the time to be pillars of your church. Not so much the single parent, the small business owner or the full-time worker. Now there are some beautiful saints among the former list. But the criteria you really want to be using for such important roles has more to do with spiritual maturity and gifted capability than simple availability.

So a church can look wider in its search for pillars, if it is willing to look for supports that need support. If your church pillar needs to be so strong they can stand alone, you’re building a culture of self-sufficiency and stoic independence – not conducive to healthy church community?

Staffing is not the only alternative to this. That single parent may be able to serve as a Worship Coordinator if the church provided them with some babysitting. For some roles the church may be able to provide an expense account, or pay for training, or carry some of the load in a hundred other possible ways.

It’s more complex than simply asking ‘Who has time to do X? Only Jenny? Well, Jenny it is then.’ It begins with asking ‘Who is God calling to this role?’ and then ‘How can we release them into it?’ It’s complex, but so it the body of Christ. Beautiful community is quite interdependent, and it is a witness in itself.   

Author: Andrew Turner is Director of Crossover for Australian Baptist Ministries. 

Photo by Diogo Nunes (Unsplash)

Thanks so much to all who have supported the Australian Baptist Easter Offering – which funds Crossover to Help Australian Baptists Share Jesus. It’s not too late to contribute if you haven’t.