It is very common to organize ministry programs to align with demographic groups. Men’s ministry, Women’s ministry, Youth Ministry, Single’s ministry, etc. I believe that the theory behind this is that demographics drive similar ministry needs, similar interests. I think that often, the alignment of common emotional, physical or spiritual needs among demographic groups is a compelling argument to align ministries this way.
I submit that there are actually two types of demographically aligned ministries:
- Internally Staffed – Ministries that (primarily) recruit volunteers from within the demographic group being targeted.
- Externally Staffed – Ministries that (primarily) recruit volunteers from outside the demographic group being targeted.
I think that this is interesting only because internally staffed ministry programs can become self-sustaining if they are multi-faceted. Self-sustaining programs not only provide opportunities for outreach, but also grow ministry participants sufficiently for them to become volunteers, and eventually equip them to become leaders. In my opinion, a program is not self-sustaining because this happens organically, but only when it happens intentionally.
Externally staffed ministries must rely on some external function, organization, or entity to grow a pool of participants from which volunteers can be recruited, and likely to grow a pool of leaders to replenish the team when burnout or transitions occurr.
As a ministry leader, understanding where your volunteers are going to come from is very important. When designing ministry programs, the staffing model is perhaps the most important indicator of sustainability.
Vocational ministers and church leaders need to pay attention to their portfolio of ministry programs to manage the supply and demand of ministry volunteers, and manage the growing of new volunteers to supply the needs of externally staffed programs. This is especially true for demographics that cannot minister to themselves – Children, elderly, special needs. For other demographics, those within the demographic community are perhaps best suited to serve within the community.