I was sitting at a table at a group charge conference, listening to a group of laity share stories of how they engaged people in ministries which “serve” others. A common concern around the table was that 20% of the people do 80% of the work! (Sound familiar?). Then one woman spoke up: “I have found,” she said quietly, “that people really respond best when you make a personal ask. For example, we needed a substitute usher one week, and I asked a new person if he could do it—just that one week. Then I saw that he was so engaged in greeting people. So, I said to him, “It looks like you really enjoy greeting people and connecting them to this church, are you willing to become a regularly usher?” The person responded, “I’d love to do that.””
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Make a small request; observe; and make another request based on what you observe. Sue Nilson Kibbey writes that some people want small tasks to do at church; but others are really motivated by something that requires an “all out” commitment. I remember Tom Berlin describing how he recruited a lay person to lead an expansion of their ministry in Sierra Leone—founding a medical facility, alongside the orphanage they began. A young doctor had come on the mission trip to Sierra Leone, and she was just about to begin working 20 hours a week, instead of 10 because her children had grown older and she felt ready to begin working more hours. Tom visited with her on the flight back. She was deeply moved by the children whose lives were being transformed by the orphanage, and excited about the possibility of adding a medical facility to the work Floris was doing (along with other partners). Sensing that this woman might be open to a really big commitment, Tom asked her, “What if, instead of working 10 more hours a week, you were to give those 10 hours to leading this effort to found a medical facility in Sierra Leone? Think of the impact you could have!” The woman prayed, and said, “yes.” She was ready for a really big ask.
As a DS, I also have learned to make “asks” that are more tailored to individual churches, and to their stage of life, and to their context. For pastors, I pray about what they might need or what might bring them joy. While it is difficult (with 50 churches, and 78 pastors!), I am finding fruit in making my “asks” more personal and tailored. The words of Jesus came to mind:
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
I wonder how we might engage more people in Kingdom work by praying, by observing closely what people might be ready for, and making more personal “asks.”
Yours in Christ,