Primary Audience – Fellow Ministry Types
Each year, ministry leaders are asking for more volunteers. They are needed in countless areas as they help create, teach, illustrate, and host a safe and friendly environment on Sundays and throughout the week. Some of these positions only take an extra 20-30 minutes to actually do but committing to that specific window can be challenging. Some of these positions take many more hours that include preparation and spending time with people. And like most things, agreeing to volunteer is a sacrifice.
I am among those that make these announcements regularly. I currently serve in a large church context and I know full well what’s it’s like to serve in smaller places and let me tell you, looking for volunteers is a challenge everywhere. Big churches need more and more while small churches can get stretched too thin. Ideas and concepts like “simple church” and more organic forms of Christian community are noteworthy but no matter how simple and organic we get, we will always need volunteers to serve each other.
So we make these announcements and on one hand it’s incredible when someone says to you, “I want you to know serving our middle-school students has been one of the most amazing gifts in my life” but on the other hand you also have people walking past you in the lobby thinking, “Don’t make eye-contact with him or he’ll make you do something.”
I’m like the “Bizarro Medusa.” The Medusa in Greek mythology turned active people to stone for looking at her, I am trying to put inactivity into motion and I don’t have snakes in my hair (just a bit of pomade). I’m encouraged that I seem to be more successful than Medusa, I mean, when was the last time you heard a prayer request saying, “My cousin just got turned into a statue, please pray they can cure him.” I’ve prayed for some odd things over the years, weather, “the rest stop would have good coffee”, health of dogs (by choice), and for snakes (that they would all perish. I know, they help control the vermin, we’ll find another way!”)
But the reality is I find myself praying for more volunteers, talking about more volunteers, listening to others about their needs and asking for … you get it. It can be frustrating and draining because it risks leaving you feel bitter, “I do too much around here …” and “Why can’t we get people to get off their butts?” and “Am I the only who knows how to do this, I was a Religion major, I hardly know how to do anything” and “Too many want everything catered to them and too few want to serve!” and when I get past the loathing and judgment, I am capable of thinking and saying mean and harsh things. Yeah.
I know there will never be enough volunteers. I also know that if we had too many in Church and not enough serving “outside” of the Church that I would be critical of that as well. I know the needs are endless, I know in a somewhat different context Jesus said, the workers are few. And while volunteer shortages sometimes cause certain inniatives to either collapse or never take shape, I know many adapt and great things happen in unexpected ways.
To those that serve as volunteers, know you are needed and appreciated, even if it’s not always expressed. You have probably heard enough sermons from I Corinthians 12 when Paul talks about “the body of believers” using their gifts to serve the Lord but in case it’s been a while, that’s a great chapter to read and be reminded why we all do what we do. Spend some time in prayer, spend some time in reflection, this may be an amazing year for you.
If you are a ministry leader, I offer the polite reminder to be a good steward of the volunteers you have around you. They drive to our churches with similar thoughts as we do. “I have this to do at work, this to do at home and I’m always doing, doing, doing.” They may have anxieties, challenges, bills, hurts and I don’t know one person who serves because they have nothing better to do, most people serve out of heart for people and for need. It can get fuzzy sometimes but most people start out that way and many remain on course.
It would do us all well to remember that most of us expend our time and energy out of a heart of worship to God and a desire to serve others as opposed to doing a personal favor to a leader or an organization. I find the “why” to be critical and when I remember this, it gives me a little peace when I have to make that volunteer announcement again and again.
But here’s the other part of why I won’t live in guilt in asking for more volunteers. More ushers and more greeters mean our church culture will be friendlier. More youth and children’s ministry workers mean more of our young will have access to more listening ears and more care. More small group leaders mean more groups and more community. All of this is in the potential of God working through us of course but there will never be enough volunteers. And so, may we serve with joy, may we trust God will multiply our efforts and may we allow the Lord to work in and through us.
And hey if you are interested in volunteering, please see me after the service or email … Whoops, sorry about that, It’s become automatic.