Monday, July 7


This is about Church volunteerism. Don't go away yet, this just might be something you need to read or better yet, give me your opinion.

I see this from two perspectives. The first is as a church staff member. The second is as a volunteer. You could say, I fell into my staff position because of volunteer work my husband was doing. I'll get back to that later.

First let me ask you, do you volunteer at church?

Do you teach Sunday school, children's choir, serve food at Wednesday night supper, sing in choir or praise team? What about running a camera or Easy worship or sound equipment? Do you set up chairs for a service that meets in a gym? What do you do?

Do you do anything but sit in a pew? Don't get me wrong there are times we need to sit and refresh and be renewed in the word. But have you thought that there may be people serving in your church who have not sat through a service to refresh and renew because their job is to "work" during the service. Have you wondered if there is anyone who fill in for them so they can just sit sometimes?

Studies show that most churches run on the 80/20 system; 20% of the people are doing 80% of the work. I would venture to guess that if you are serving at your church, it is in more than one area. Say, choir, teach Sunday school and help out in the nursery from time to time. That is a lot.
As one of my "staff" jobs, I am the volunteer coordinator for our Media Ministry. On any given Sunday, there are 32 media slots to fill. We usually have around 19 people each week to fill those slots. That means that many of these volunteers are working in multiple services (8:30,11:00 and 6:00pm). If they are working in multiple services, when do they get to actually go to church and refresh and renew?

I feel terrible asking peole to serve SO much. It breaks my heart to think that they are getting totally burned out. I have volunteers who have not been out more than 3 Sundays in 2 years. The pastor gets more time off than that. Now it is different in some areas where you can bring anyone in to fill a nursery slot. But these are jobs that require training ahead of time. It is not that the job is hard, it just requires a little training.

I had someone say something to me last night that cut to my heart. I had to ask him to pick up another Sunday service, which means another week of not "worshiping" but "working". He said, "you guys are really taking advantage of me and wearing me out. You are on staff...I am not." I wanted to crumble to the ground right there. I didn't have anything to say, but I am sorry, but I don't have another option.

Now, my husband is a "volunteer". He/we have to be at church at 7:30am each week as he runs graphics/video for the Praise & Worship service as do I from time to time. I no longer have a volunteer to trade off with him every other week. His replacement quit. Who could blame him. My daughter has to spend the night with family on Saturday night because we have to be there so early. We have not gone to church as a family in a long time. My husband also is the engineer at our 11am service that is broadcast for TV, and I sing in the choir for that service. So we are there all morning. Is that nutty?

As a staff member I am burning out the volunteers... as a volunteer... I am burned out myself.

It is a vicious circle, too few people volunteer, making it harder for those who do, burning them out quickly so that they quit and make it tougher for the others, and so on and so on.

Now, this is my question for you. What are you doing to help? Have you wondered, what can I do? Or better yet, have you never asked yourself that question? If so, you are reading this right now because God has a plan and purpose for you in the local church. Our Lord doesn't ask us to do His work without helping us. He blesses each of us with specific abilities—spiritual gifts—for the ministry He wants us to be in. 1 Corinthians 12 affirms that "God gives [spiritual gifts] to each one, just as he determines." (v. 11) We all have something to offer in ministry, because He gave it to us!I am sure there is someone at your church just waiting to get your call or email saying, "I think I'd like to volunteer somewhere."

Do you know your spiritual gifts? If you would like to take a Spiritual Gift Inventory Test you can. It will help you see areas of service you may be perfect for.

Pray about your role in your local church. Pray about it, ask God to show you where He wants you to serve. And above all, pray for those who faithfully serve every week, say thank you when you have the chance.


Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

That was well stated. I am sure there are ministers and church staff all over the country who would love for their congregation to read this. Seriously! I do worry about you getting burned out. I don't know how you can get fed when you are going not stop and never able to worship, yourself. I volunteer in the nursery. Before that, we were on the greeting team. I enjoyed it. I know we don't do enough. Atleast it is something.

Georgia said...

Well said from that side of the fence. From this side, I see churches coming up with more and more programs and ideas to implement. I believe, and this is my experience talking, that if a church can't conjure up the volunteers to make their programs run, then they might ought to look at cutting them back to a managable number. It hardly seems right to have ministers crying in the pulpit because they're aren't enough teachers to teach children's Sunday school because they have implemented a program that requires 6 adults for every one class of kids. What you get then, are people who have been guilted into serving. People who feel called to serve, will. I don't think the church really wants people serving out of a sense of obligation, do they?

There is always another choice. Forego the graphics and video for one Sunday or a whole month so the people who run those aspects of the worship service have an opportunity to worship. Worship isn't about us anyway.

lana said...

I COMPLETELY agree. I absolutely think that those who make the BIG decisions continue to push programs that many times,we can not make work. It is true. I would never want anyone to serve out of obligation but out of a true calling, that is why prayer is such an important key here. Thank you for your thoughts, please understand I am on your side of this situation too.

Cammie said...

I agree with a point. There shouldn't be programs implimented that don't have people to run them, but...

Many people sit only.

I feel everyone should serve somewhere.

Our interim PS director came in yesterday morning and begged for help. Our PS children have grown, but the volunteers have not.

To answer your question, my husband and I are very busy at the church. PS search committee, Deacon Nominating Committee, Committee on Committees, set-up choir chairs, Children's Ministry Planning Committee.

Most of these do not happen during the service. There is something to do at all times the church is open!

Karen Kogler said...

This is a very important conversation. In the past 20-30 years our culture has changed, but churches continue to recruit volunteers in the same way, primarily by appealing to a person's obligation. Overall, it's not working, and it's hurting those who do volunteer and our churches. I too am and have been both staff and volunteer. Sue Mallory, now at Group Publishing, in her book "The Equipping Church," explains well that the answer is not in more or harder recruiting, but in changing our focus to challenging people to consider how God is calling them to serve and them helping them follow that call, even when it doesn't lead to the ministries for which we're recruiting. And, INHO, it is the regular church members who can best help staff see and implement this change in focus. The potential for church health and impact in this approach excites me, and I've put some tools that might help on a website, I'd be interested in any feedback. Thanks for starting this conversation.

~LL~ said...

UGH...don't I hear you! I spent the past few years as Director of Christian Education....I was in charge of 10 classrooms, 17 teachers and 180 kids (I started out with only 5 rooms, 8 teachers and 90 kids.) I go to what we lovingly call a "mini-mega" church. We have gone from 500 to right about 4,000 since the fall of 2003. And I can say that even in a big church, the problem is the same.

we actually had a recruiting time for over a few months in which we highlighted each area in need, told of how many people were needed and then had the people stand in our atrium from that department...almost like a job fair. It was really effective. we got over 300 volunteers in the first several weeks (we needed about 500.)

Anyway, it does get tiring, when you are in charge of things and you need more....especially when you know that other departments need more, too. But, I did find that no matter what, God always might be in an unlikely way or at a difficult time, but He always provides. :D

lana said...

Thanks for such great comments. I knew this was close to my heart and it is good to hear some great thoughts on this. Looking forward to even more.

Karen, I visited you site in preparation for my post and doing research. I will be sharing some info. from your site with some of our church leaders. Thanks!

Lisa@BlessedwithGrace said...

I have enjoyed reading all the comments, as well. Our church did a big push for volunteerism. "Serve One, Worship One". The idea was worship during one of the Sunday morning services, and then serve in some way during the other worship service time.

Georgia said...

A church we used to attend tried to implement the policy that everyone should serve in one area...and do that one thing well. And I agree. We should utilize our spiritual gifts for spiritual purposes and with pure motivation. Anything less than that is bad stewardship. I think I would be more receptive to the pleas for volunteers if they weren't administered in a sneaky, underhanded manipulative way. It is unnecessary to bring in the two year old Sunday school class and tell everyone that the class will be disbanded if someone doesn't volunteer to teach them while quoting scripture about sacrifices. That's not to say that all churches operate in that manner. They don't. I just believe there to be many pastors, et al., that don't see anything beyond the growing of their own flock. They fail to see and prepare us for our other priorities, like taking care of the home or providing Titus 2 women as accessible role models.

Ooops...kind of got off track there. Sorry. :(