Many, if not most, churches struggle to find volunteers. This challenge is not new, but it has been exacerbated since the pandemic. Some of the reasons for members declining to volunteer are understandable. But some are not.
Perhaps the most unbiblical reason for no longer serving in a church are those four deadly words: “I’ve done my time.” Indeed, if many of your church members are responding with these words, your church may be on the descent to death. Here are five reasons why that is the case:
1. Ministry in the local church does not have an expiration date. From Acts 2 to Revelation 3, the entirety of that large swath of Scripture is either about a local church, to a local church, or in the context of a local church. There are no church members talking about “doing their time” in those books of the Bible.
2. Those four words sound like a prison sentence. Ministry should be a joy, not a period where we are doing obligatory and cumbersome work. When you hear those words from a church member, you are likely hearing from someone who has not learned the joy of serving.
3. The Bible is clear that all members are to do ministry. Read 1 Corinthians 12 again. Paul reminds us in 12:27: “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” The text is clear that everyone (“all of you together”) must be involved in ministry. If any member is not functioning, the church as a whole suffers. There are no members of the Corinthian church on the sidelines because “they’ve done their time.”
4. Those four words are demoralizing to church leaders and active church members. When church members declare “they’ve done their time,” other church members have to take up the slack. It is understandably frustrating for a committed church member to hear other church members declare they are AWOL from doing ministry in the body of Christ.
5. Most often those four words are accompanied with the baggage of bad attitudes. A church member who stops serving because he or she has done their time is typically a church member who has an entitlement attitude. Now that they have served for a season, they expect the church to serve them. It’s analogous to a husband telling his wife that he has served her sufficiently, and that she must serve him for the rest of their marriage. That scenario does not end well.
If a significant number of church members declare, “I’ve done my time,” the church is in trouble. Indeed, the church may be dying. The body of Christ described in 1 Corinthians 12 is a functioning body with all the members carrying out their roles. Once the members declare they are finished, the church is finished.
We’ve seen this sad story play out too many times. “I’ve done my time” are truly the four words of a dying church.
Posted on November 14, 2022
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
More from Thom
We have experienced this at our church but it’s hard for me to be too critical of the people saying it, many of whom are in their 80s-90s or getting close to that age. They may also be suffering from deteriorating health, or caring for spouses who are declining. It can be a struggle for them just to get to church at all. It’s all very difficult, and needless to say our church is fading/dying. But I don’t feel comfortable exhorting them to labor in church volunteer duties when they have a hard enough time tending to their own basic needs.