The volunteer ecosystem of many churches can be highly productive and effective in ministry. However, these networks can also suffer from a lack of involvement of the local church community.
A common example of destructive behaviour is the over-committer. A lovely and well-meaning character, this person can't say "no" to helping out in a ministry.
Inevitably these individuals are faced with burnout and a lack of time to provide proper focus to each ministry, often falling into a pattern of maintenance work instead of growing the ministry.
It is a challenge for leaders of ministries to be mindful of how much their volunteers are committed to, and to take care of those in their charge, even if it means making the hard decision to recommend taking a break.
There are others who haven't committed to their church's ministries.
People can have many reasons for not committing to church ministries, and there certainly are cases where this is responsible behaviour.
But one should be careful. Being involved is one of the best ways to feel a part of your church community. The Bible encourages us to serve our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and church ministries provide practical ways for us to do so.
Waiting until you finish studying, or until you get a house, or until you're asked can be bad reasons to hold back from serving others. Encourage your fellow Christians, pray about it, take initiative and ask how you can help.
The role of the church
Churches have a considerable responsibility in their volunteer ecosystems. A substantial role is that of a facilitator, ensuring ministries are resourced, providing the organisational framework required and, importantly, providing a vision for each ministry to support.
Naturally, amongst all of this is the question of who is suitable to be a volunteer in a ministry? Each church must answer this for themselves. From personal experience, when people are able to get involved and volunteer they connect far better with the church community as a whole.
Being involved often builds a sense of ownership and camaraderie, connecting volunteers with the church. Naturally some volunteer positions are more sensitive but perhaps the morning tea roster could be a bit more open?
Volunteers need to be accountable to themselves and others as they continue to execute the duties they've volunteered to do. Being consistent in your commitments is a great way to support the ministries you volunteer for and provides encouragement (and reduces the stress) of those who coordinate the ministry.
Additionally, volunteers need to be mindful of how they think of the work they do. There can come a point where apathy sets in, at which time it is important to either find a way to become excited and engaged in the ministry again or perhaps move to a new ministry. Apathy can be quite poisonous and it is unlikely that you will be able to give the work your best.
Setting an example
Leaders of volunteers (volunteers themselves or otherwise) need to be doubly sure they are mindful of the example they set.
They need to provide a vision, a direction for the ministry, encouraging those in their care to strive to serve to their best. A positive drive reinforces the development of ownership and camaraderie, as there is a clear goal, hence supporting each member in their life in the church.
Being involved is healthyâin balance. Support each other so that as a whole you can, as a church, effectively proclaim the glory of God.
Sam Gillespie is a Composer and a computer programmer based in Sydney.
Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html