Of course when most churches seek non-paid volunteers to operate its various ministries ranging from youth groups to local missions to the morning tea rosters, the last thing they seek to do is to disillusion people.
In fact, I believe that many churches actually try to invite people into ministry work so that they can feel more connected to the church and its members, whilst actualising values such as servanthood, humility and faithfulness.
However whilst many, if not all, of these virtues are initially embodied and exhibited by volunteers across a variety of church ministries, after a while resentments and frustrations inevitably build and can be highly detrimental to the spiritual health of the volunteer and the church in which they are functioning.
Of course not all volunteers reach a point where they become burnt out and disillusioned. But many do, and that's not something that churches should dismiss or turn a blind eye to.
If we are burning out our deacons (elders, council members) and church workers, then what does that say about us, the church body? Or more importantly what does it say about our responsibility to nurture and safeguard the spiritual welfare and development of our fellow Christian brothers and sisters?
Our Church Survey
Recently my local church conducted a survey to gauge the overall satisfaction and spiritual development of its church members. The survey, which asked questions about our worship experience, the depth and quality of teaching, our cell group / bible study involvement and our encounters in ministry work, didn't just seek to delve into the psyche of its members. Rather the survey sought to reach out to the congregation, seeking their thoughts, their sentiments, and their suggestions.
It wanted to involve them and to improve their overall experiences. And by experiences I don't just mean amending the environment to produce highly efficient and stylised service; but amending the spiritual environment so that it is enriching and empowering.
Since the survey results have been released and discussed at our Annual General Meeting, the mood within the church has altered considerably. So much so that people are talking about how infectious and apparent the 'mood' shift is.
People are genuinely enthusiastic. They are excited about ministry work again. And most importantly they feel valued and delighted to have an eldership that is genuinely and actively invested in their ideas for ministry development.
So whilst volunteers within churches are particularly susceptible to burn out, its amazing how quickly this sentiment can be altered once people within the church feel that they are being nurtured, supported and empowered.
Jesus interacted with His disciples, He listened to them, asked questions of them and valued their opinions. Once again the church needs to follow the example set by Him to realise its potential as a group and as individuals within the collective.
Alison Barkley lives in Newcastle and is a post graduate student at Deakin University.
Alison Barkley's archive of articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/alison-barkley.html