I have a recently graduated student who is currently kicking butt in boot camp. I don’t mean some pretend, game-show like, office-morale-boosting “boot camp” – he’s in the Army, now! I know basic training isn’t supposed to be fun, but this kid is tearing it up and loving life right now. He’s the kind of guy that could make a career out of military life and love it. If he does that, he’ll have several opportunities throughout his life to re-enlist. He’ll be given an open exit door and the choice to take it with an honorable discharge or to recommit to another term of military service.
What if church membership was a little more like that?
I’m not suggesting that being part of the Body of Christ is anything but a lifetime endeavor. You should definitely go all in on that – for life.
But what if we opened the door every 3 or 4 years for either a grace filled exit from or recommitment to a particular area of service? I’ve seen volunteers in the church who’ve served faithfully for decades who would re-up every time because they truly love what they’re doing. They’ve found what they’ve been gifted for and are pouring themselves into it. But I’ve also seen volunteers who mustered up the courage to try something new who’ve discovered it’s not really a good fit, but who continue to languish in less than effective ministry because they don’t know how to stop. They feel like something must be wrong with them and feel guilty even suggesting an end to their service, but deep within, they know they’re not the right person in the right place at the right time. I’ve also seen many who have lost that first love who need to be challenged to recommit to the beautiful work that God is drawing them into. They’ve settled in to the patterns around them and are plodding along under the weight of the status quo. Would a consistently timed open door help to remind them of the freedom that first excited and energized their Kingdom work?
I’ve seen church leaders get frustrated when volunteers sort of fizzle out. First they miss a week… (But it’s ok, they’ve arranged their own replacement.) Then it’s a couple weeks… They start coming late and getting done a little early… They forget to let you know they’ll be gone and stop arranging their own subs… The leader comes to grips with the fact that he doesn’t really know if the volunteer will make it or not… then they’re just gone. (By the way, this is as much an issue of healthy leadership as it is an issue of the commitment of the volunteer… or more.)
What if we could embrace this re-enlistment model? I’m sure there would be some unintended consequences to this model, but I think we’d see a few awesome results as well:
- Honorable Discharges – Releasing our people to explore other ministry opportunities for which they are more suited
- Fewer volunteers feeling indefinitely stuck
- More focused energy/work knowing an ending point is established
- Deeper ownership by each person of their part in the mission of Christ through His church