How to Motivate Volunteers Like Jesus


This is a famous fable about four people in the church whose names were Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

The church had financial responsibilities, and Everybody was asked to help. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But you know who did it? Nobody. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Then the church grounds needed some work, and Somebody was asked to help. But Somebody got angry about that, because Anybody could have done it just as well and, after all, it was Everybody’s job. In the end, the work was given to Nobody, and Nobody did an excellent job.

On and on this went. Whenever work was to be done, Nobody could always be counted on. Nobody visited the sick. Nobody gave liberally. Nobody shared his faith. In short, Nobody was a very faithful member.

Finally, the day came when Somebody left the church and took Anybody and Everybody with him. Guess who was left. Nobody![1]

When I read this fable, it just reminds me of how hard it is to motivate Anybody to do the mission work that Jesus gave Everyone to do. So, in the end, we have Nobody willing to volunteer in the church.  I want to share with you some ways Jesus motivated his followers.

Six ways Jesus Keep the Disciples motivated:

1)    Be a leader worth following

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:35-37

Jesus was not like typical king or religious leaders.  He did not look at the crowds and see them as people who should serve him.  Instead, he looked out and with a compassionate heart asked, “How can I serve them?”  He was a leader worth following.  A leader worth laying down your life for.  A leader worthy to take up your cross to help.

2)    Set an example

Jesus left us with a discipleship model. You watch, I do, we talk.  I do, you help, we talk. Then You do, I help, we talk.  You are sent, I watch, we celebrate, and God’s kingdom expands.

3)    Create an environment where they can grow

Jesus was there to protect them and allow them to grow.

“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10: 26-31

4)    Make life interesting

“These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons”. Matthew 10:5-8

Following Jesus is rarely dull.  After spending time preparing the disciples for meaningful impact in the world.  Jesus sends them out with the message of salvation they had heard Jesus proclaim countless times.  But he had them start out slow.  Go first to the Jews.  In other words stay for now in your comfort zone.  He wanted them to experience success.

My first door-to-door evangelism experience was in a rural white suburban neighborhood.  I want you to picture this.  I am a six-foot-five and two hundred sixty-pound African American male.  I walk up and ring your doorbell say, “Hello”, and then jump into the old Kennedy evangelism questions.  “If you were to die tonight…?” That is about as far as the conversation went before the door was closed and the police called.

Jesus had the divine wisdom not to put his disciples in a position that they would fail and become discouraged.  Are you putting volunteers in a position that they are doomed to fail?  If so, rethink that strategy.

5)    Offer incentives

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.  The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward.” Matthew 9:40-41

I am not necessarily encouraging you to pay your volunteers.  What I am saying is given them some incentive.  Let them know that their time and effort is necessary and critical to the ministry of the church and our Lord Jesus Christ.

6)    Stir the pot

 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 9:34-39

Remind people that the work they are called to do has the power to change the world.  Jesus did not come into the world to bring peace but the stir things up.  He began to shake the foundations of the world.  To turn the world upside down.  Jesus came to fix what was broken and restore what was lost.  He came to redeem the world and reconcile a lost world through his death and rising to life again.  And we are joining him on this mission.  We are called to be people who stir things up.  Embrace your calling.  Be empowered by the task ahead.  You are world changers.

Other posts in this series:


[1] Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

33 Comments on “How to Motivate Volunteers Like Jesus

  1. Thankfully, I’m been blessed with the task of being an avid volunteer. I watched my beloved Mother do a lot of it when I was growing up. She loved giving back, and so do I. I see it as my purpose in life. Sharing my talents is fun, and not only lifts up the people I give my time to, but me as well. Talk about walking on a cloud. I’m there!

    Love this post. I’ve been in situations where nothing got accomplished because no one wanted to take responsibility for doing what they didn’t think was their job. Imagine my surprise! I had to move on from there, because I was also rebuked for being somebody who cared, and wanted to do my share and more. Now I’m better placed where I am able to give and receive. Thank Jehovah!


      • I suspect you’re right. However, frustration keeps you buzzing. You want to find a solution when you’re frustrated. You haven’t given up, and that’s a sign that there’s still a way forward. Highest and Best!


  2. What a great article! I was thinking how I could pass this illustration along to my pastor hubby for a future sermon, when I realized how Everybody in our church IS a volunteer. How blessed and fortunate we are that so many offer to assist others financially, visit the widows and shut-in’s, bring food over to those who are ill . . . Still it’s a good story for that-a-boys isn’t it? It’s always great to thank volunteers. Blessings back, (PS. Hubby came in and thought your illustration was perfect too! So he’s got the link now, 🙂 )


  3. Keith I like your explanations of fable ! There is no doubt that it is quite difficult to motivate people for good karmas !


  4. I love that fable. I’ve heard it over and over but it rings so true. Great encouragement for how to get everybody involved in the Kingdom of Heaven work.


  5. I really trust the saying: your words help. Your actions make the difference. That’s so true. I’ve been volunteering for 12 year for he intercultural dialogue and when I made other people join was just because they saw how happy was I (and other volunteer) to do what I was doing


    • That is exciting to be able to serve such an awesome God and lead young people into a deeper relationship with him. Still praying you find that church to help advance the kingdom further.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Fab post Keith. So thoughtful; I always feel beautiful and glowing after reading your posts. You must be giving off shiny vibes 🙂


  7. Reblogged this on The Recovering Legalist and commented:
    Getting help from people in my congregation to visit and do evangelism outreach in our community is not easy. Of course, I’m not the best leader in the world, either.

    All of us need to improve in our own right, and this post from Keith Haney can help.


  8. Setting good and great example by doing what we preach is a great way of showing others that what we preach is achievable.


  9. making volunteers like jesus, quite toff as being christ like is a good feeling but the challenges that comes along are plenty but with God’s grace.

    great read.


  10. Pingback: How Not To Recruit Quality Volunteers – The Light Breaks Through

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