When it is functioning at its very best, a church is not only a place where everyone is welcomed; it is also a place where everyone is needed. Everyone really is needed, not just special people or insiders!
God's plan for the local church is for each person who is involved to have a unique role to help the mission of that church thrive. His plan is that each of us find an active role of volunteer service.
Paul wrote the following about one of the early churches that he planted: "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us" (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Paul didn't say that God does the work in the mature among us, the super spiritual among us, or the amazingly gifted among us. Paul said there was a place for everyone. God has given each of us unique talents, gifts, life experiences, and passions. These talents and gifts come from the "same Spirit" who "is the source of them all."
God wants everyone to be involved because everyone is needed. We make the mistake of only looking up front at church. We look up front to the pastor, youth pastor, children's pastor, and worship leaders, and we think that those people are the real ministers, but that kind of thinking is so far from what God intends for the church. Every job and every ministry role is important.
I won't use names here, but there are countless people who serve behind the scenes at The Orchard. There is the man who takes care of concessions for our weekly youth gathering. He provides "dinner" to almost 100 students every week, buys supplies, manages the budget, and does it with a smile. There is another man who leads the Building Team and the Trustees Team. He is instrumental in providing a nice, clean environment for groups to meet and for planning our future. A third man leads the Audio Visual Team on Sunday mornings, never on stage, but he makes the stage look and sound great. He also serves on the Building Team, as a youth volunteer, and a youth grow group leader. In addition, he regularly visits The Orchard campus to mow grass and smooth gravel.
A woman leads youth registration and a youth grow group and helps with youth communication on a weekly basis. If you have been to youth group, you have seen her smiling face, but you might not know her name. She is changing lives with her abilities and gifts. Another woman leads the childcare host team that provides childcare for all leadership events at The Orchard. She hosts a weekly grow group in her home and serves on the stage design team. She is also a partner in crime with her husband who leads the outreach teams. Another woman edited this article and lots of other Orchard communication pieces on a regular basis. Chances are that if a piece of communication has a spelling or grammar error, then we didn't get it to her ahead of time to proof!
Take any of these six people away, and we don't just have interchangeable parts. We can't just go to the spiritual store of people ready to serve and find a replacement. When we lose a volunteer servant we lose something really special in the body of Christ. We lose a gift, a talent, or a passion that God has given to His Church. Paul writes again about how important each person is: "The eye can never say to the hand, 'I don't need you.' The head can't say to the feet, 'I don't need you.' In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary" (1 Cor. 12:21-22).
If you have not found your place yet, I encourage you to push forward to find it. God's work on earth is left wanting because of your unused, untapped, and underutilized abilities and talents. Keep trying to find your place. Don't give up.
If you are a volunteer servant, then know that you are a special person. You may not be up front, and you may not hear the words "thank you" very often. You may not feel like you can put your hours of service in your family Christmas letter or on your résumé, but please know that God values your efforts and is using them to change the world one small step at a time. You are unique. You are needed. You are helping the Body of Christ reach her full redemptive potential.