Friday, July 23, 2010

Volunteer Burnout

Last week I spent some time with an old friend. It’s always great to catch up and reconnect.

My friend’s family has made a choice about how to serve and meet needs in their local church families. Yes, I do mean “families”, as they have attended several churches in their hometown.

My friends swoop into a church, get to know the people, identify a need that they are able to meet, fill the insufficiency, and then they walk away. They might not walk away from the church altogether, but they walk away from being put in a position to be taken advantage of.

Once they took their young grandson to the nursery at a church and saw that the room was in disrepair. Since this couple is particularly handy, they repaired walls, built shelves, put down new carpet, and bought new toys.

My friends have helped refugees, widows, and kids by painting a worn torn house, furnishing a room, or offering free short-term childcare.

I can understand why they choose to walk away after they meet needs. We Christians tend to take undue advantage of people. I know that statistically speaking, about 10% of church attendees are doing 90% of the work—both physical and financial. That’s a shame.

I know many people who keep their gifts and talents well hidden from their fellow parishioners. The reason is simple—they don’t want to get sucked in and then stuck in a black hole. We’ve been known to work people into the ground and push them to the point of volunteer burnout. That burnout leads to sadness and the kind of bad feelings that cause people to leave the church in a huff.

We use people. We’ll love you and show our gratitude for your faithfulness until we find somebody newer and flashier, then we’ll kick you to the curb.

I’m ashamed of how we treat our own sometimes.

I think my friends are on to something wonderful—quietly meet the needs they are able to meet, and then move on. Jesus’ ministry was very much like that. He came to the people, assessed their physical and spiritual inadequacies, and He met them right where they lived. He then moved on. He didn’t stick around to receive accolades and praises because He knew it wasn’t about Him.

Jesus was about the work of The Father.

The physical Church cannot survive without faithful volunteers. We need to get off the pew and treat them with more kindness, respect, and appreciation. When body parts start abandoning the body, the other parts suffer.

Stop volunteer burnout. Get off the pew!

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