Monday, March 24, 2008

I Hate Volunteering

I came across this Best Practices in Internet Ministry post today about volunteers creating and maintaining a church Web site.  The topic itself wasn't so interesting as the idea that staff should be creating and maintaining the church Web site.

While I definitely understand and agree with some of the comments made of volunteers, I've found that the same is often true about staff (either in church or the workplace). 

  • Not good. Too often people think more highly of themselves and their skills than they merit.
  • So far it has been good. Although getting them to keep their pages up to date has been tough.
  • They each have their own ideas about what they think is cool and want to help but really are way behind the times.
  • This post though shows something I've seen happening in a lot of larger, and even some smaller, churches.  They are looking to staff because they don't feel that volunteers are reliable enough.

    This actually comes in different statements like:

    • Our volunteers are too busy to lead
    • The task needs 20 to 30 hours a week of work, which a volunteers don't give
    • Volunteers can't be managed
    • Volunteers don't have the time to manage

    I used to go to some youth minister lunches (when I was a youth minister) and I was the only one there who was a volunteer, the rest were staff.  During that process one of the other youth ministers mentioned that we had a pretty good youth group, so we must have been doing something right.

    There seems to be a growing idea that while the church needs volunteers, staff are necessary for the critical roles.  If we have to rely on volunteers, we'll only get second best results.

    What's interesting is that I attend one of the healthiest, and largest, Episcopal churches in the area.  I used to volunteer about 30 hours a week to youth ministry, but now lead one of the most impressive lay eucharistic ministry (the people in white who give you wine) groups (I didn't make them that way, but I hope to keep them there) and our technology team.

    While I'm probably a little unique, I'm certainly not alone.  We have a volunteer who commits a lot of time to leading our finance committee and leading our mission trips (we're going on four this year).  We have an incredible band which many real bands would be envious of, lead and composed of all volunteers.

    We're recognizing the gifts of the volunteers, and giving them the authority to use those gifts.  In leading Eucharistic Ministers, it's clear that I'm no good at planning and organizing, so my good friend Lisa takes care of that.  Together we've doubled the size of the volunteer group.

    My point here?  Find what someone is passionate about and ask them to volunteer.  If the staff and leadership continually communicate the need for excellence in volunteers, just as we give excellence to God in other areas of our lives, people will come forward and offer their excellence.  Only if no one has the skill, or won't follow the leadership, do you begin looking outside the organization, but even then many roles can be filled by consultants instead of direct staff members.

    I think it's time that we move past publicly "recognizing" how important volunteers are, and instead rely on them so entirely that they have no option but to recognize how important they are.


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