Do volunteer leaders need to be members?

I’ve almost always said yes to this question, minus a few exceptions, but I’m curious what you guys think.

If someone wants to be a volunteer leader at your church do you think they should also be members of the church? Do they need to come every weekend? Where do you draw the line?

There’s a difference between working the parking lot and mentoring students, so where does that play out?

Maybe a scenario would help: If you were a youth pastor and you had a great leader who led a small group for some of your students every Wednesday night, but went to the church down the street on Sundays, would you be OK with it?

Let me know what you think!

12 thoughts on “Do volunteer leaders need to be members?”

  1. Ryan, I’m on staff at Cornerstone in childcare in Heartland, yet attend Sun Valley, and go to Camber during the week. For awhile, I was working at Cornerstone, and attending the Rock Eternal, and not doing anything at Cornerstone. So, I guess, I think as long as you’re attending somewhere that’s considered a “sister church” then, it’s ok.

  2. Oh ok that makes sense! Those are all great churches, and somewhat related, so you’re in that “exception” area it seems.

  3. ran across your blog while checkin things out on a new friends sight and thought I might weigh in…question is becoming more common…I would say unfortunately
    I know there can be exceptions but i also think you should serve where you attend, give, grow and… The hand ought to be connected to the heart if you will. I think it is helpful for the students as well – part of being grounded and growing in a world where family has been redefined and choice is a right – what does your leader think? Would they rather serve and attend at the same church? Why don’t they?
    grace and peace

  4. Hey Nate,

    I like the hand/heart picture. If two churches share the same heart, but a person’s schedule only permits them to attend one and serve at another, they might be in a pinch. I’d imagine anyone would rather serve and attend at the same church, if that church gave them that ability.

  5. Ryan,
    I would prefer most of my leaders to attend the same church and be a member. That way you can sort of know that that person is supportive of the mission and the values of that church. Now there may be scheduling conflicts that does not allow that person to attend regular services on the weekend when your church schedules them. At this point I would find out if the church that he is attending is teaching the same values and doctrines as your church. Then I would not have a problem with that. Ultimately, churches are part of the body of Christ as a whole so I do think there is a problem with serving at one and worshiping at another.

  6. I would wonder why they felt the desire to attend one church while serving at a different church. Yes, we’re all part of the Church, but there is value in committing to a local body. I suppose it’s a case-by-case basis, but in the particular given scenario, I’d wonder why they felt they could do that. I’ve had to recently ask a volunteer staff to choose one or the other. It has to do with relational commitments; I wonder if a person can fully experience authentic community in both church bodies. I also wonder what kind of example it’s setting for students. It could affect them positively, showing that the kingdom is bigger than just one church; it could affect them negatively, creating a consumer culture where church shopping is normative.

    In any case, I’m excited for your new role at SSCC! Josh Barton is a good ministry friend, so I’m sure our paths will cross in the near future.

  7. If you’re the youth pastor I guess it becomes how desperate you are. I have many people that play in the band at church with me and never come when they don’t play….but if I told them they couldn’t play anymore I would have to make a huge downgrade. Obviously you want everyone to volunteer and attend and certainly a discussion should be had but to just make it a hard and fast rule is somewhat impractical.

  8. In the end, I think you want people who are onboard with the vision of the whole church, not just the church’s youth ministry. But I suppose there are always going to be exceptions… like a student who attends another church but attends your midweek program starts bringing his dad–who’s interested in leading. I could see that working out.

    I guess I’d ask leaders to covenant to support the mission of the congregation and its youth ministry… but not necessarily require church membership.

  9. Mike, I like what you’re saying… If they’re on board with the mission and values, but faced with a scheduling conflict, they might not have a choice.

    Joel, preach it! Volunteers definitely need to set an example of what it looks like to commit to the local body. Too many church hoppers around!!

    Tyler, it is an honor and a privilege to serve in youth ministry. Any youth pastor who is desperate is having a hard time telling that story. That or his/her church is a bunch of consumers and they should flip some tables next Sunday. Or something.

    Strangedunn, it NEVER works when a member supports one ministry, but not the overall ministry. You are right.

  10. My leaders are actually a bit of a mix. A few go to a different church down the road (which is a different denomination) but are great leaders. I don’t know where you ‘draw the line’, the church down the street has a few leaders come along to the outreach club that aren’t committed Christians but passionate about young people and it was great to work alongside them on a recent joint-church project, though this wouldn’t work for a youth club aimed more at Christian young people. A few pros of having leaders from the same church include having young people also inside the church building better relationships with the leaders because they’ll know them and see them more; and
    it is easier to get people from the congregation involved in youth work (not always face-to-face work as it isn’t for everyone, but set-up, giving rides places, praying, cooking, etc). Pros of working with leaders that go to different churches include fostering ecumenical links/

    I suppose it also depends what you mean by ‘church member’, I’ve been the youth minister at my church for 3 years and am not a member of the church (so I can’t vote in member’s meetings), though I worship there on Sunday mornings. The situation I find is – many volunteers in the youth ministry have grown up in the church, but are now in their mid 20’s and the church is not meeting their needs (as it is aimed at 40’s+), so they worship at a more charismatic church in the centre of town. They however, have a connection with my church as they grew up there/parents are there, etc and a heart for the youth in the community and thus, serve there…maybe that’s an exception? I guess it would all depend on their motivation?

  11. There will always be exceptions, but generally I think a volunteer in a leadership position *should* be a member. Being a member declares a commitment; volunteering, though admirable and much needed, is more of a “no strings attached” activity. Its kind of like being married, but dating on the side. If you’re a member of A but volunteering at B, that means neither one is meeting all of your needs: either A needs to provide better opportunities or B needs to refocus on what’s important. Tyler’s description of those who’ll gladly play in the band but won’t attend otherwise is a great example of volounteers with the wrong focus. They’re clearly more driven by satisfying their own needs than the needs of the church, the community, or glorifying God.

    (On a side note, we have an interesting situation at our church where one Sunday School teacher is not only not a member, he’s not even the same denomination!)

    I enjoy your blog, Ryan. Best wishes on your move to AZ.

  12. I suppose that my point of view is and easier-said-than-done esque way of thinking, but if someone is willing or feeling called to serve in a particular ministry, and has beliefs that parallel to that of your church, why not? Just because someone loves the youth ministry, and the doctrine that your church stands for, does not mean that they particularly agree with what’s being said or practiced in the main service, and I think the time constraint arguement warrents consideration as well.

    In short, if you feel like God’s led said person to you, and that he can use them in your students’ lives, then why not? Esspecially if they’re plugged in somewhere where they are being challenged and changed for Christ in a way that fits them best.

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