Involvement Ministers Network

Between April 24 and August 27 of this year (2017), I took it upon myself to go searching for other folks that do what I do as an involvement minister.  My goal was to create an IM Network, and I think I have.  As of this moment, I do not have permission to share names and email addresses.  But hopefully soon, I will be able to share it.   Following is what I learned from 242 calls to 242 churches of Christ.

First of all, I learned quickly (what I kind of already knew) that Involvement Ministers (IMs) go by different titles: Involvement Ministers, Family Life Ministers, Connections Ministers, Associate Ministers, Community Life Ministers, Discipleship Ministers, etc.

I found that many ministers wear many different hats and do many things other than involvement.   One brother was attempting to do youth ministry and involvement ministry at the same time; I could tell he was frustrated.   Many of these have transitioned to IM from youth, pulpit, missions or other ministries.   I’ve also talked with some people that have transitioned from being a member or a deacon and they are now in charge of involvement (among other things) in their congregations.

The criteria for my calls along with some findings are as follows:

  1.  Congregations of 300+ members in Tennessee and connecting States were called by phone.   (I assumed that most congregations cannot afford two ministers unless there are at least 300 members). Several larger congregations had as many as four ministers (some even more) but none was an IM.
  2.    I found the ‘gate keepers’ very professional, friendly and helpful.   I am proud of the ladies who answered their congregation’s office phones.   In several cases, larger congregations did not have anyone to answer the phone and/or they didn’t have an answering machine.   I was a bit shocked.   To be honest, my first thought was: how do members get in contact with the church and how did these churches ever grow to their present size??
  3. In many cases, secretaries did not know what an involvement minister was and a good majority of them did not know who was ‘in charge’ of getting members involved in the ministries of their congregation.   However, in at least one case, the church secretary was in charge of getting members involved.
  4.    Some of the larger congregations had phone systems that even their secretaries could not operate. Some phone systems would not allow me to talk to a living human.   Some of them would not allow me to leave something as simple as a general voice mail. To be honest, my first thought was: how do members get in contact with the church and and my second thought was how did these churches ever grow to their present size??   I am techinally challenged for sure but I did take several minutes in an attempt ‘to get through’ with no success.   It’s a good possibility that I was the problem.
  5. I did not call Non-institutional or One Cupper congregations primarily because few if any of them have over 300 members.
  6. Many IMs were not in the office when I called.   I usually called in the afternoon (avoiding lunch hour) and in several cases left voice mails asking the IM to call me back. I would say about 50% did call back.   Those who were out of the office, were out doing the Lord’s work. One was becoming a grandfather for the third time when I called.
  7. The general reception by those who did the involvement work was good and some were very excited to be talking to another IM. When I told them about the “Church Involvement Conference” and www.churchinvolvement.com they were really appreciative.
  8.  I found 5 female IMs, one eldership of eight did the involvement work, and 1 married couple did it.   Several IMs were former pulpit or youth ministers and had been with their ‘present’ congregation for many years (one brother had been with his congregation 27 years).
  9. The majority of our brotherhood congregations in these states (with a membership of over 300) appear not to have any intentional means of getting members involved in any sort of ministry.  This is a personal observation and it may not be accurate especially if the ‘gate keepers’ do not represent the leadership of the church.
  10.    Many of the congregations had deacons who got members involved. Several congregations use their small groups to involve members.

I found 42 full time church staffers whose purpose is to get members involved in ministry; Tennessee has 22 of these.  I found none in SC, NC, and VA.   Kentucky and Mississippi both had one each.  AL and AR had 7 each and GA had 4.  The balance of 27 were deacons, church secretaries, elders or a member who had a ministry of IM.  These are volunteers and not paid full time staff.  All 69 do IM a little diferent.  Five of these IMs are female.

What I find interesting is that these stats mean that out of 242 churches of Christ, we can say that there are 42 full time IMs which is about 1 out of every 6. If you add the volunteers to this list, then you would have close to 1 out of 4 churches do involvement in some form.  Very impressive. I find this amazing and I am pleasantly surprised.

If you are an IM or you know of someone who is and/or if you have not talked with me, please let me know at travisirwin@att.net

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN