When a church won’t let you volunteer

In my last post, I discussed a different approach churches can take to Recruiting Volunteers.  Using a model like that can plug people into the right roles where they are more likely to serve long term and stay dedicated and fulfilled.  Whether it’s through this recruiting process, or simply announcing an opportunity most churches have a desperate need for volunteers.  Which is why it boggles my mind when I see churches turn volunteers away.

My wife and I have both experienced this and scratched our heads.  A church posts a volunteer opportunity and we try to get involved and help, only to either not receive a call back or be told that there isn’t anything going on right now.  We’ve often been left wondering why they advertised the need for help in the first place.

Too many people with legitimate talent or passion in a given area struggle with not finding opportunities to serve.  Often they get pushed or guilted into areas of need but aren’t fulfilled and suffer burn out.  I understand that sometimes certain areas have a greater need and that’s where you serve, called or not.  In that case, the need IS the calling.  But if it’s not where the person wants to be, it should be temporary.

There are ministries that often attract more volunteers than others, but even then volunteers can be put on a rotating schedule.  Unfortunately, there are also some ministry leaders that like to be a one-person show, or they have their circle of friends they work with and don’t want to let anyone else in.  Some are envious of others’ talents or afraid to be outshined.  You find this mostly in areas like worship, production, technology and anything creative.  There are no cliques or big egos on the greeting, parking or nursery teams – areas that aren’t as desirable.  There are always going to be difficult people that require patience and training, but I think Jesus set the model for believing in potential.

This is yet another area where our church experience does not match the Bible.  We read verses that tell us that each person has been given a gift and should serve, that we are all the same body just different parts.  We also hear all the time that a pastor’s job is not to do all the ministry, but to train and equip the people.  Done the right way, people can find a place to serve that is satisfying and enhances their church experience and contributes to a healthy church community.  We need to look in the mirror and question our motives and purposes.

Are we seeking glory for ourselves?  Are we afraid that someone else might outshine us with their talent?  Even though we complain we’re overworked, do we sort of wear that as a badge of honor instead of let others help?  Are we focused on plugging people into the areas they’d best fit to serve with passion?

It’s time to evaluate our church community, and make sure that people are serving where they belong, and that talent is not being wasted.  If you don’t want passionate people serving on your teams, send them to another church that could use the help.

1 Corinthians 12 (Common English Bible)


About Scott Phillips

Topics may include faith, relationships, marriage, being a Dad, movies, whisky & bourbon, beards, career, movies, fall weather, being independent politically, travel and anything random. View all posts by Scott Phillips

2 responses to “When a church won’t let you volunteer

  • jennifer14225

    What do you do when the church won’t let you volunteer and keeps snubbing all your suggestions because you are not part of their inner circle? They beg for volunteers but won’t let me volunteer in areas I am passionate about. I cannot volunteer for anything it seems. They never return my calls, deny getting any emails when I send pictures of their activities in the church, or suggestions. They never respond to my calls or emails and when I see them in person they quickly respond to my suggestions and find reasons why they won’t do them and rip up the suggestions. I do not feel welcome. I also went to Membership Classes and filled out all their tests but have not heard from them as to whether I can be a member. I am sure Jesus would not treat people like this.

    • thechurchinthemirror

      Jennifer, thanks for the comment. I would try to schedule a meeting with one of the pastors on staff to share these frustrations and see what they have to say. It sounds like you’ve done all you can to get involved.

      It could be this is not the church for you and you might want to find a place where you can be involved and be a part of serving your community.

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