I remember the first time I was truly invested in a cause. I was 14 years old, and I was asked by one of my teachers to be on the team running the school-wide canned food drive at Halloween. I enthusiastically accepted that invitation, and as a team we worked together on a plan to collect as many canned foods as possible for donation to the nearby downtown rescue mission and homeless shelter.
We brainstormed ideas, came up with a plan, and then set about executing the program we developed. I talked to everyone I knew about the canned food drive. I gave them creative ideas for collecting canned foods from their neighbors. I went into my own pantry at home and raided it for any and all canned goods that my mother had stocked. We recruited some older students to drive us around on Halloween night to collect canned goods rather than candy during trick-or-treating.
We hauled all the canned goods to school, counted all the cans, showed the collection to the student body who greeted us with wild cheers and applause. We took the cans in a big truck downtown to the people who needed them so desperately. At the end, we felt pleased with ourselves and fulfilled in a way we never had before. It was especially meaningful to me as a first-time volunteer. In fact, I had done more than simply volunteer: I had truly championed this cause.
As church leaders, we are constantly developing programs, initiatives, and plans that will help us and our pastoral staff accomplish the vision and mission God has given to our church. Ultimately, however, programs, initiatives, and plans are not the end in themselves. The church is about the people inside of it, and about the community we create as a fellowship of believers.
Therefore, to accomplish anything in the church, we must involve the community of believers. We must recruit men, women, and children to employ the gifts and skills God has given them to uniquely participate in the things that will bring growth to our congregation, both in number and depth of commitment. Mere volunteering will not meet the need, however. We need some “super-volunteers” who will not only join a committee, but also truly become a champion of whatever cause we’ve invited them to join.
What does it take for someone to become a champion within your church?
1) Embrace the cause as their own. To start, those becoming champions of a project or cause in the church must see it as their own project, their own initiative. Taking ownership of the cause as a champion means being fully responsible for its ultimate success or failure. Win or lose, they’re in it for the long haul. They feel a sense of victory when they accomplish the goal. They are gutted when things don’t go to plan. They are emotionally invested in the project and find it difficult not to take things personally. They need not be the leader of the team in order to be a champion. Any volunteer can connect deeply with the team and take ownership for the team’s outcome. A champion, no matter their level of leadership, owns the cause and sees it through to completion enthusiastically and with great commitment.
2) Learn what will attract others. A champion cannot accomplish any task within your church on their own. They will need others who are similarly invested to join their team and contribute their own gifts to the vision. Volunteers will not come easily, however. People today are busy and involved in so many things. In order to make one more commitment, people must be strongly attracted and compelled to join the cause. Champions must therefore make the effort to intentionally learn what will draw people to join the team. It requires research into the validity of the project, as well as exploration into what is most meaningful in the lives of those she’s trying to recruit. If people feel deeply connected to the cause, they will volunteer joyfully. In order for this to happen, the champion must put in the effort required.
3) Invest personally. Perhaps the true test of the commitment of a champion is the degree to which they are willing to invest personally in the cause. This often goes beyond a time commitment. The old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is,” is extremely relevant when discussion championing a project. Financial investment, especially when it calls for financial sacrifice, is generally required to show others how serious you are about your cause. While, certainly, it is not always possible for every single person to give financially to a cause, the pain of financial sacrifice helps the champion be even more intentional in fulfilling their God-given duty. People will give when they see the leader give. They will commit when they see the leader commit. Leading by example is crucial to the success of any initiative. A champion has the chance to do just that and lead others as a result.
4) Say No to Other Things. Being a champion of a cause requires full commitment. When making that full commitment, there will not be room left in your already full life for other things. Therefore, choosing to be a champion of a cause requires the person to turn down other offers so that they have room in their life for the level of commitment needed. This is difficult! Many times, people prone to championing causes are lovers of volunteering. They like to get involved. They want to make a difference! However, making the decision to champion a cause is making a choice: a choice to be dedicated fully to one issue, one project, one concern. Saying no to other things means they can say yes wholeheartedly to the issue at hand, thereby ensuring a greater chance of success. Of course, saying yes doesn’t mean forever. However, it does mean personal dedication to the cause for a given amount of time and saying no to other things until God leads you in a new direction.
Every cause needs a champion. Church leaders must seek them out and recruit them from the congregation as together the pastors, leaders, and members of the congregation seek to do all that God has called them to do for the life, betterment, and expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth.