I went to a great church right after college. With great worship and gospel-centered, challenging teaching it was a no-brainer choice for me and my new bride. We settled into the church, got involved in a great small group and a variety of other ministries at the church. About six months later at a newcomer’s breakfast I spoke with the Senior Pastor individually and after hearing that I felt called to pastoral ministry, he said I should meet with an Associate Pastor so I could get involved in teaching and also be mentored. I said that sounded great.
I went home and gave the Pastor he had recommended a call. It was a Saturday so I was not surprised to get his answering machine. I left a message. A week later the call had not been returned, so I left another message. Two weeks later, my call still unreturned, I left another message. Finally I received a call back and we arranged a time to meet. On the day of the meeting he didn’t show up. So went my volunteer and mentoring experience at this church.
As frustrating as leading volunteers can be, volunteering can be equally frustrating. Sometimes it feels as though the church’s leadership has no interest in cultivating or mentoring or encouraging volunteers. This can lead to burnout, frustration, isolation, and stagnation. How can you avoid these things? And, what do pastors want, anyways? How can you be a good volunteer?
Let me offer three suggestions:
1) Be willing to serve in ways that aren’t in your gift set. It’s invaluable to serve the body of Christ outside your areas of spiritual gifting. It will mature you as a believer and it will give you a new appreciation for those who serve day in and day out in that area of ministry. It is also a great service to the church. At the church I spoke of above, my wife and I ended up teaching the 3 year old Sunday School class. That was definitely outside my comfort zone and gifting, but it was a wonderful experience and God showed his grace and strength in my weakness.
2) Don’t be shy. If you want to teach or serve or to be mentored, don’t hesitate to approach a pastor and talk about it. Don’t expect to be approached, it often will never happen.
3) When you begin to serve, meet with a ministry leader or pastor to discuss his or her expectations. Far too many churches don’t communicate their expectations to their volunteers. That doesn’t mean they don’t have expectations. Talk to the leadership and hear about how they see your ministry fitting into the church’s vision.
Serving the body of Christ is a joy and a struggle. Be gracious to your leaders and be gracious to your fellow volunteers. You will be abundantly blessed!