We Do Not Serve Volunteers!

volunteer1GUEST BLOGGER: Today’s guest blogpost comes from @EstherRennick. Esther Rennick is an adventurer, administrator, writer, and songwriter from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.  Check out her blog Adventures Of Lady Esther:  If you would like to submit a Guest Blog Post for BigIsTheNewSmall.com, click here.

We Do Not Serve Volunteers!

Churches around the world give the call to Christians to serve.  Millions answer that call in the form of serving in their local church.

For many church volunteers, the experience is positive.  With the help of church staff and organizers, the volunteer is given the open door to effectively serve while still having the time to work and have family life.

Unfortunately, this is not the experience of all church volunteers.  Many experience a sign posted on the front of the church that says, “We Do Not Serve Volunteers!”

Thousands of volunteers have given up their ministry because they have become burned out and disillusioned.  Fingers are pointed as to who is at fault; however, the end result is many have given up on their calling and sit in pews week after week not serving.

If your church has any of the following symptoms, the sign on your front lawn may say “We Do Not Serve Volunteers!”

A Volunteer . . .

  • is asked to serve for two hours but it takes six.
  • is frequently “expected” to do over and above what they were asked to do.
  • is not given the resources they need to do their part.
  • is made to feel that their “smaller ministry” is not as important as the “bigger ministry.”
  • must work with church scheduling that is not organized.  Volunteers may arrive to find the church door locked and meetings cancelled with no notice given.
  • will not have a mentor – only potential volunteers receive this service.
  • should not expect to grow in their ministry.  Volunteers should be prepared to be stuck in their present role forever even if they are a budding leader.
  • must be patient and understand responses to emails and telephone calls will not be promptly answered by church leaders or staff.  Inquiries may not even be answered.
  • should not give suggestions for improvement or articulate what is not working because that is “complaining” which is not allowed.
  • must be understanding that it is alright for full-time church staff to work less hours a week than volunteers do.  Volunteers are expected to give more.

Volunteers may hear the words that they are loved and appreciated but actions speak louder than words.

If you are not sure that the sign on the front of your church is “We Serve Volunteers!” begin dialoguing with your volunteers.  Approach them with a servant heart.  Ask them to share with you what makes it difficult for them to volunteer in your church.

Make the decision to make the changes needed in your church that will allow the sign “We Serve Volunteers!” to be proudly displayed on the front of your church.  Set a shining example in your community of how to serve all people – including volunteers.

Share your thoughts and experiences!

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  • LOVE the post. I began my journey as a leader and in ministry again as a volunteer, by serving so much of what you say here speaks loud and clear. It was one of the missional things and is still a missional force in my leadership to equip, build up, keep informed, value and release volunteers because each one has incredible potential in God’s plan.
    Thanks for sharing.
    M_

  • That makes sense. I actually went through point number 5 at LifeChurch…

  • Great post!! Fellow New Brunswicker too!

  • Ed

    Fantastic article!! I fought so hard at my last church for them to realise they were using and abusing volunteers.

    Every point on your list is an accurate reflection of what was happening – in the end I had no choice but to step down from my pastoral and then volunteer roles becasue I could no longer support leaders who knowingly treated people like that.

    Thank you for raising these points and challenging us all to remember to look after our volunteers – It’s part and parcel of loving people like Jesus does.

  • Is it possible that some leaders recognize the problems their volunteers face but not know how to practically solve the problems?

  • Ed

    Esther I think in some situations that might be the case. In my case I was on staff as a Youth Pastor and then the Worship Director as a volunteer. I could see the issues, at first I though it was confined to the youth area but as I took on the other role it was clear that it was systemic. Becasue I wasnt in a high enough position (i.e elder or Snr Pastor) my attempts to effect change were ignored. In the teams I led I valued volunteers but it was conflicting to the rest of the place that it was actually starting to be divisive.

    In all honesty I think people may have been aware but simply assumed that this is the Church and they people are serving God so they will (and should) put up with it and deal becasue its “all for God”. When that’s the attitude, it discourages people to speak up becasue they are seen as complainers so they pew sit instead. Then that leaves maybe 20% of the congregation (usually the people who volunteer for everything) flogging themselves either out or guilt (if I dont do it no one will) or they simply dont see anything wrong with the situation.

    If leaders who are in positions to make change happen know and understand this then things will change. If it isnt then they dont see it IMO.

  • Esther – So true! I was on staff at a church plant for 4 years, and the senior pastor did not value volunteers’ time and families. Meetings that were supposed to be 1 hour always went to 2. Volunteers that were already serving were burdened with more tasks. Goals were pursued that extended way beyond our volunteer capacity, and it burned people out, myself included. The church shut down eventually.

  • geekinstructor

    Awesome post! Making a copy ( and giving you credit) as I begin working with a church plant.

  • It’s a challenge. How to run a limitlessly busy volunteer based organisation without overtaxing the workers.

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