There is a frustration among children?s pastors and leaders for volunteers. The feeling is that people are less available to volunteer and there is an ongoing decrease in commitment from our church?s core membership. We continually cite people as busier, with greater stress and less free time. Our common conclusion is that our society has changed and people have less free time and are therefore less time to commit and less interest in committing to significant ministry.
Those statements, however, are rooted perhaps more in assumption and less in fact. There is a body of academic research that retorts that people have more free time than they did twenty years ago. Our time-saving, drive-through, online world has freed up, not consumed, time. We all have time ? we just have more options of what to do with it and we?ve also created a culture where it is highly unfashionable to have a sparsely populated day timer.
It?s hip and trendy to be busy. But bring busy may not be the unavoidable reality we believe it is; it simply be a reflection of our need for significance. The fact that we are personally and irreplaceably needed by someone, somewhere is an image we would like to project and perhaps a reality we intentionally cultivate. Being busy is a way of bringing a feeling of significance to our life. We need to be busy, however, with the right things in life. We need to be ?busy? finding quiet places to just ?be? with God. We need to be busy loving and caring for our families. We need to be busy sharing God?s love with the world ? fulfilling the great commission that was given to every believer.
We often believe that a ministry will become an unbearable time burden on someone. The reality is, however, that when it comes to finding time, most people have lots to spare. The have time for TV and movies, for web surfing and home renovating. These activities are not necessarily bad but they are a reflection of people who have time. If you can watch 22 hours of TV a week (the average Canadian does), you probably have time to prepare a lesson and do a really good job. If you can paint your kitchen for the third time in as many years you?ll likely be able to find the time to decorate a new set. Very few people are too bust to find the time and energy to be a midweek club leader or a Sunday morning shepherd.
Knowing that overloading people can lead them to burnout, we sometimes tend to view ministry as a burden rather than a blessing, speaking in terms of obligations, omitting the spiritual benefits, attempting to minimize the commitment required and assuming a measured and conditional response. Frankly, I don?t need any more burdens in my life and I don?t know anybody else who does. When we approach people and treat the ministry position or opportunity as a burden rather than a blessing, we immediately discourage an enthusiastic response and cultivate a sense of obligation, and condition people to find a way to say no.
When people call me with opportunities and sell them as exciting, fulfilling and life changing and make me feel honored because I have been asked, I am always looking for ways to say yes. We?re all gate keepers to ministry opportunities that will bring incredible fulfillment to people and help them soar spiritually. There are people who are hoping and praying that someone will help them find a place where they can use their God-given gifts (or help them discover what they are). There are people waiting to have their lives radically changed and just need a venue to serve in.
When you are recruiting and retaining your volunteers, assume that they are looking for meaning, significance, community and ministry and believe that they will find it in ministry to children. Those same people who say no to a ministry commitment because they are needed somewhere else may, properly motivated, be just as likely to stop watching a TV program or start telling their employer that they are unable to work late because they are desperately needed to make a difference in kids lives.
© 2005 Graham Greenwood