Published: 9 years ago

Topical Tuesday: Who Gets to Serve?

We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  Today’s question is submitted by Mike Gifford:

Should covenant members be the only ones that serve on ministry teams?

Nope.  Next question!

Actually Mike, that’s a great question (face it, the question wouldn’t have made it if it weren’t moderately awesome).  The short answer is that we do not restrict serving opportunities to our covenant members.  While there are some leadership roles that require membership, just about all of our teams are open to those who are still checking out the Summit.  There are a couple of reasons for that:

  1. Teams provide context. There’s nothing like a smaller community in order to define your church experience.  It’s through serving on a team (or attending a small group) that you get the inside track.  You begin to learn the vibe of the church, and you build relationships like crazy.
  2. Teams provide evangelistic opportunity. We have many cases where people are serving on teams and they’re not yet Christ-followers.  Serving alongside other believers provides multiple real-life conversations which often lead people to the truth of the gospel.

Obviously, we want to move every volunteer towards covenant membership.  Some of our teams have grace periods of several months, but at the end of that time membership is required.  The reason for that is because we want to build spiritual, relational accountability into the serving relationships at the Summit.

An obvious question follows this discussion: How do we ensure that “the wrong people” aren’t serving?  Can just anyone serve? The answer: it depends.  There are some “low-risk” serving opportunities (worship choir, First Impressions team) where an unbeliever is in a relative safe zone and surrounded by experienced volunteers who know the expectations.  However, when it comes to serving with minors, every volunteer – brand new or here for 30 years – must submit to a thorough background check.  No background check, no access.  And even those with a background check may not serve in a leadership position prior to a six-month period.

So the next time you’re dropping your kid off in the nursery to the guy with the eyepatch, multiple tats, and a running chainsaw, remember: he’s been cleared.  Relax.

Next week: What are you doing to make sure your sons don’t grow up to be wimpy pansies?

  1. Jon T says:

    So you’re saying next week I get to wear an eyepatch and have a chainsaw?

    Thanks Danny!

    This is a good question because I feel like some people that come to the church that may not be covenant members feel like they are “off the hook” on serving. It is good to show them that they are still needed and they can grow in such great ways just by serving with others.

  2. Mike Gifford says:

    Thanks for the time you put towards this question. I agree and understand your reasoning. In addition when the twins come into this world, I can tell Mary that pirates can be Christians and they love serving at our church.

    I have one more question. Church discipline has been one of the topics that I don’t know a lot about. What is the biblical process that a church uses to keep the body safe and restore those that may be disciplined. By the way if you answer both of these questions, we may not need to get lunch! J/k my brotha

  3. Zack says:


    Careful how you answer Mike.

    His question seems innocent enough, but what he’s really asking is,

    “How much can I get away with before someone notices that I’m up to no good.”

    The kid’s one step away from the mafia man. Watch you back.

  4. Zack says:

    “Watch you back.”

    Oy… sarcasm works so much better when you spell the words you mean…

  5. Matt says:

    I understand what you’re saying about low-risk roles, but I’m just not sure they really exist, at least the ones you mentioned.

    The worship choir is a very public, “up-front” role. Even though you’re one of 100, people see you, and if you’re living unrepentant in some sin, people may know that, and see that you have the priviledge of doing one of the most important activities at Summit–not singing, but leading worship. And because you’re not a member, there’s no Biblical accountability.

    The same pretty much holds true for First Impressions–you are the face of the church. Newcomers don’t know that you’re not a “leader.” and of they saw you drunk the night before, that might reflect poorly on Summit. We can only really have authority and accountability over our covenant members, and therefore anytime someone is given the opportunity to honor or disgrace–not Summit, but Jesus Himself, don’t you think we should seek to have that authority over that person, and they should therefore be a member?

    • Danny says:

      Matt, that’s a great point, and it’s interesting you bring it up. I just came from a meeting with some of our staff team where we discussed this very thing.

      The key to all of this is “relationship.” As John Mulholland points out in his comment, we don’t want to throw “just anyone” in there. In all of our teams, there doesn’t need to be a mass processing of people to come in when they’re not known, not tested, and not accountable. People need to serve in the context of relationships – relationships with staff, other team members, etc. However, we also don’t want to restrict service to those who seem to have it all together. Sometimes volunteers have messy lives, and we want to disciple them as they go forward in faith.

      I would agree with you that there is a difference between someone leading worship and (I would add) someone parking cars or handing out worship guides. “Up front” roles do indeed carry a different weight here than “behind the scenes” roles. But with ANY role, and with ANY church attendee, we want to make sure that authenticity in relationships is being pursued.

  6. The rule of thumb for our ministry team for teachers is that they much be participating member, growing in their faith. We don’t just throw anyone in there with our kids…

    • Danny says:

      John, to clarify, we do require than anyone in a lead teaching role MUST be a participating member. However, people doing Summit Kids check in, assisting in a class, etc., may serve under the direction and in accountability to a covenant member. Thanks for your comment!

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