This year’s theme for National Volunteer Week (April 18 – 24, 2021) is The Value of One, The Power of Many. We are celebrating both the incredible acts of kindness done by individuals and the synergy created when many join together for a common purpose.
For churches, it is a great opportunity to acknowledge all the volunteers who serve in various ministries. Depending on their gifts and skills, volunteers either had too much or too little to do this past year. Administrators, tech crews, worship teams, and children’s leaders were overwhelmed by the amount of work that was suddenly expected of them. Meanwhile, those who were previously involved in ushering or food services found themselves without as many opportunities to serve.
This disparity will affect how ready volunteers will be for our eventual return to regular in-person services. Some might feel burnt out and decide to step back for a season. Others might feel excited to have the chance to serve in their ministry again.
Bryan Yeager, chief operations officer for Samaritan Aviation in Arizona with extensive experience managing ministry volunteers, warns us not to make assumptions about volunteers. Most likely, there will be changes in “volunteer organizational structure and assignments, which all boils down to a lot of work just to make everything function properly”. Some key volunteers might no longer be available because they have decided to continue attending church online. Finally, not all will return with a positive and servant-minded attitude because the pandemic caused them to become the “walking wounded” who themselves need care and compassion.
With all these challenges ahead, it may feel tempting to leave these issues for another day. Sometimes it helps to use tools that will make the administrative side of managing volunteers easier. These tools will create volunteer schedules for you and make it easier to communicate and share resources. By freeing up time, you can begin to minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of your volunteers.
National Volunteer Week is a good opportunity for us to celebrate those who give their free time to help others. Of course, in the church context, volunteers are actually those who are called to use their God-given gifts to serve the body of Christ. This calling is not a have-to but a get-to: “For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). What’s more amazing is that it is God Himself who does the work. He lets us tag along to experience the great joy of doing something with eternal significance.
The theologian Michael Horton shared a story on a podcast of Core Christianity about a memory he has of his father. We have adapted it here as a message of encouragement for all the church volunteers in our lives:
My dad was an airline mechanic in World War II and he could fix anything. He built a boat once. I mean this guy was a carpenter, he built houses. When it comes to me, the apple not only fell far from the tree, it rolled down a hill, and then went into a gutter, and then it came out and was run over by a large truck. I have absolutely no technical skills whatsoever. It’s very sad. My wife has to call a handyman to hang a picture but here’s the thing. When I was a kid, I remember my dad had the car hood up and I was there. I just liked being around him. He had his hands all messy in there rebuilding an engine or something. When he was almost finished, he said to me, “Here, press this down”. Up to this day, I don’t know what I pressed down. And as he was wiping his hands with a rag, he said to my mom, “Mike fixed the car”. To this day I get tears in my eyes when I think about how loving that was.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and reflects the opinion of the author. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on as professional advice. You should consult appropriate professionals for your specific situation.