Spend a little time around the church culture today and one quickly finds a hot button issue; church volunteers. Yes, those people who sacrificially give of their time, treasure, and talent to bring about the greater good of the local church assembly. How about an example? In the spirit of July 4th, here is a good example:
Several weeks now your church has been planning a community or church event. This event, lavish with various food-dishes, games, and fellowship ideas is set to create a relaxing, safe, and fun-filled environment for both church member and visitor alike. The men are talking about the home runs they are going to hit, the kids are talking about the games, the bounce-houses, and the bike rides. Everyone is ecstatic about showing up and getting their “grub and game on!” That is, everyone except for the event coordinators.
They are grinding their teeth with frustration and have, in the cover of their own home, threatened to quit multiple times. Bed time for these unfortunate people is riddled with the frustrated venting of “nobody cares,” “why do we even do this,” and “this is our last year.”
Their “fishing” tactics to garner big support is met with silence. The same people who could be counted on to repost, like, and comment on every comedic video put on social media have suddenly seemed to go on a social-media fast. In fact, it seems that the social-media stalkers have given up their time-consuming habits! Oh, don’t worry, they are still lurking but they have gone into hibernation until after the event is over (this, I fathom, is the feeling of the event coordinator).
Believe it or not, people can become disillusioned with the church over special-events. Why, people have actually left the church over issues such as this! That is why, in my honest opinion, one should NEVER entrust such coordination to tender and soft new-converts! They aren’t ready for the brutal truth of the church they are so enamored with; that help is often impossible to find!
So what is causing this? Why is the church, and those few deeply involved, getting so frustrated with the lack of volunteering? Here are a few reasons to consider:
#1 People are lazy: Ok, I know I didn’t start out easy! You want to get into a quick fight with practically anyone? Call them lazy and you will soon find out, “them is fighting words!” Sadly, this is the honest truth of our current generation. People are lazy! People avoid “extra-work” like they avoid the dentist! People feign hearing-loss when work-days are announced. They quickly busy themselves dealing with “suddenly disruptive children” as the pastor begins to express the need for helpers. Why? So they can avoid committing to anything! Laziness and commitment are as much companions as oil is with water!The two do not mix! Sure, many of these same people will proclaim that they “hold a job” and work “so many hours a week,” but guess what…they don’t have a choice! Their homes, cars, and lifestyles depends on their working! So yes, one of the reasons volunteers are getting so hard to find in the church culture is because people are getting lazy. Spend some time reading through the scriptures on “the idle, the slothful, and the lazy” and you will begin to realize, God’s kingdom has dealt with this reason for quite some time. If I’m reading this and can just be honest with myself and admit, “I may be a little lazy,” then guess what? I can begin the process of confronting my laziness. Next up…
#2 People are selfish: I know, right? I’m not taking it easy on anyone. Well, hang on because we are going to get into some reasons that are not “person-centric” but “church-centric.” However, in this case (selfishness), one has to be honest; we are living in the generation known to be “lovers of self.” Our generation is a “selfie” generation. Grown mothers, arms extended as high as they can go and necks craning upwards into the heavens to diminish double-chins, are snapping photos of themselves while children are strapped to chairs, forced to watch videos and given snacks in-order-to give time for the “selfie-storm.” Humorous, I know, but sadly, so often true (social media makes this clear). In the church culture we find selfishness displayed through departmental efforts. If it doesn’t involve “my department” I don’t care to engage or commit. Now understandably, people are most comfortable committing to what they feel they do well with, however, it doesn’t become an excuse to avoid volunteering! This is a part of “denying the flesh!” Nobody likes setting up tables in the humid, sun-bathed summer heat! Nobody likes working “all-day” on a holiday and then having to stay late to clean up! However, if I can just admit I would rather “do my own thing” than “help the church” then I can begin to identify my selfishness and go to great lengths to “conquer my flesh and self” and inform it who is in control! What’s #3?
#3 People feel more like slaves than volunteers: This is where we take a little bit of a detour. As one that has been involved on the ministry side of this over many years, I can admit guilt readily. It has been said that when one leads, he is in the front. This is very true. However, if one is leading from behind, guess what, he isn’t leading…he is driving. Yes, a leader can easily become one that dictates, mandates, and forces labor within his/her department. I cringe myself, thinking back over the past years of various departmental leadership positions, and the “driving” I was guilty of doing. Yes, it can be frustrating when people don’t show up or show up late. Yes, it can make for a bad day when people don’t follow through with their commitments. However, one must remember that these are still God’s sheep, of which, I am one of them as well! Sure, everyone is different and some need a good prodding along. However, the longer I am around this the more I am coming to realize…people desire to be appreciated. Nobody likes to feel like the work-horse that only receives the biting end of the whip. The same principle of not “muzzling the ox that treadeth the corn” applies among all workers! Even if we EXPECT people to do what is right it doesn’t hurt to appreciate when they attempt to do what is right! It’s Pavlovian Conditioning (look it up if you don’t know) all over again! People shouldn’t associate volunteering with reprimand, anger, and rebuke! I know that this isn’t easy because reasons #1 and #2 are active issues many times. Let’s look at # 4…
#4 The “ministry” is more important than the volunteer: This is a doozy and one that is seriously overlooked! Guess what? If we aren’t careful we can completely lose sight of the volunteer because we are so focused on the ministry. How many times have I heard, “you don’t care about the lost” based upon the efforts of “volunteers” that don’t show up or commit like the ought to in regards to outreach endeavors? The same principle can be applied on the proverbial “flip-side”. What about the volunteers? They are souls too! They have lives, issues, problems, failures, and temptations as well. They need prayer, preaching, teaching, and reaching too! However, this is a serious flaw within departmental realms. We get so caught up with the mission of our ministry that we fail to see the people our ministry depends on. Instead, we see all their flaws and are consumed by everything they don’t do well with. Before long, nobody wants to help us because (perhaps without even realizing it) they don’t feel important or valued. They don’t get the feeling that we even care about their lives, their families, or their desires. Goodness, even Jesus recognized after His disciples had gone out two-by-two that He needed to get them away from the demands of ministry and minister to them! This is a tricky balance to keep and one that demands great patience from leaders (and great wisdom). You know how we try and make “ministries” fun for the sinner? Guess what, sometimes we need to incorporate that into our “ministers” involved with the “ministry. Finally, # 5
The Coordinators Are Guilty Too: Well, let’s end with a big-bang. Guess what? Often times a department can seem to run into the idea of “nobody helping” simply because the coordinators in charge are guilty themselves! Nothing is more counter-productive to an event-coordinator than to be the “person” that is known to not support, help, or assist in other events. Listen up! Leadership isn’t defined solely on how well one does in their specific department. Rather, leadership is a principle that reflects on the personal character of the individual; how well they lead themselves. Before one can ever be a greater leader of others they must first be able to lead themselves; this is the true definition of dominion in our own lives. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt the leader to admit their flaws, apologize to other departments, and pledge to do better on their end in supporting things beyond their own ministry. I can think of several men right now that make an effort to help out in any way they can with things that their churches, ministries, or name gets credit for. The result; when they do something they never lack in others seeking to show up and make their events great as well.
While there are many other factors, issues, or reasons that can lead to a failure of “volunteers”, these are five reasons I feel play a vital role within the church. The proper attitude and response of all that would read should be “I can see where I myself could change.” God forbid that we use these things as “validation” or “case-and-point” arguments of justification for bad attitudes and bitter feelings. Instead, let us, as the body of Christ, do everything we can to:
…come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).