Volunteering Pastors?

As church leaders it is no surprise that it is frequently the pastor that invites folks into different ministry opportunities.  It is almost a daily occurrence it seems like which is no surprise either.  The needs of our communities and even the world are tremendous and we’re called to be part of the solution.  (Props to Mr. Obviousman again).  Pastors invite others to serve in these ministry opportunities and frequently serve in the same opportunities they invite others into.  At church.

But what of the pastor volunteering outside of the church/organization they serve?

I have to admit, since I’ve been in full-time ministry I haven’t always volunteered outside of the church that I serve.  There were always church things that took my time and after all, wasn’t I serving God’s kingdom by the things I did with and for the church I serve?

Yes, but…

As church leaders we invite people to make time to serve others outside the time they spend in their normal work week.  Council members, worship team leaders, leaders in the efforts to provide food, clothing and shelter for others and so on are all asked to make time outside their normal schedule of working, taking care of family and volunteering in other areas of their lives.  There is nothing wrong with that.

What I’ve learned by volunteering outside the church (I’m a chaplain for the Lincoln Police and Fire Departments, usually on my day off) is that on occasion, no matter how committed you are, volunteering your time is inconvenient, annoying and a general all around pain in the ass.  The chaplain corps here in Lincoln is a great group, and based on the calls I’ve responded to we are a needed group) but we’re short staffed and scheduling can be tough.  On the normal days.  When something inconvenient happens to one of us, oh say like a family emergency, then coverage gets difficult.  Sound familiar?

But here’s the deal.  All church leaders and staff need to spend some time as a volunteer in something outside of church.  As church leaders, it is too easy to become myopic about what it takes to be a committed volunteer.  We are so rabidly committed to the church we serve (or should be) that it is difficult to remember that not everyone is as committed as we are.  As church leaders our church is properly our primary focus but our church is just one of many important things in the lives of other folks.

This is important to remember and volunteering somewhere outside the church we serve is a good way to gain some perspective.  Odds are we won’t be as committed to the activity we’re volunteering in as we are the church we serve.  And here’s where the perspective comes to bear.  Volunteering outside our church can serve as a reminder what it feels like when scheduling is inconvenient.  Volunteering outside our church can serve as a reminder what it feels like when something comes up but we’re already committed.  Volunteering outside our church can serve as a reminder what it feels like when you have a ridiculously busy schedule and someone asks for one more thing.

Church leaders – get out into the community and volunteer your time outside the church.  Lots of reasons this is important (another blog post topic maybe?) but if nothing else it will help with perspective about volunteering outside a full schedule.

Church people – encourage your church leaders to be in the community as a volunteer.  It will make for a healthier leader and healthy congregations need healthy leaders.  Please do NOT let anyone go down the path of, “If he/she has that much time on their hands…”  It is unlikely they have more time than anyone else but being in the community as a volunteer has a whole lot of upside to it.

Volunteering pastors.  What a concept.

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