No new volunteers

Jesus gives away power

Lent 2023

Power is not ours to keep, nor ours to wield over people. As Christians, our job is to follow the example of Jesus Christ in not holding on to power but giving it away. On Fridays this Lent, I shall be looking at the example of Jesus both in the temptations he faced and in his empowering of his disciples.

Having looked at the temptations of Jesus and Jesus sending out his followers it is time to see how this is applicable to the 21st Century.

A lanyard with a badge saying volunteer hangs in front of a red shirt.
Photo by cottonbro studio on

Very recently someone I know visited a rural church. At the end of the service, he went to congratulate the organist on her playing.
“Do you play?” replied the old lady at the console.
“No. Why?”
“I agreed to play here as a temporary measure, and here I still am 40 years later, but there’s no-one to replace me.”

That is the first of two problems. Lack of volunteers. The other is there is no vacancy because people are doing too much and a few people are taking all the roles in the church; burnout by overwork will be covered in the final post in this series.

Some people who would not respond to a general request for help would say yes to a personal invitation.

This complex issue cannot be dealt with in a small blog post. I am no expert, but here are a couple of reasons that this happens and a couple of things that can be done.

The church is too small

Problem: The church is too small.
Solution: Sharing resources between churches.

There are small churches, many of them rural, which have great difficulty filling any roles because congregations are small and there are not enough people to keep all the necessary roles filled, even when the rate of volunteering is high. On the other hand, there could be large churches with a surplus of people capable of one role or another who either cannot help in the church because of the large surplus or are on a rota and only serve at the church occasionally. Large churches can have problems filling certain roles, while they have a surplus in others, but when there are other churches with very few resources in the same area, sometimes in the same denomination, there could be some sharing.

The situation of an organist feeling stuck in a job, which I mentioned above, could be alleviated by there being a few musicians willing to occasionally play at a church other than their own.

Thrown in at the deep end

Problem: Being thrown in at the deep end.
Solution: A mentoring programme.

The problem is being given a task with no training and no support. Volunteers can be left to look after children with little more than a DBS test. If training were available people might not be too afraid to come forward.

After this the Lord appointed 72 others. He sent them out two by two ahead of him. They went to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is huge, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. And don’t greet anyone on the road.

Luke 10:1-4 NIRV

The way Jesus worked was a form of mentoring. There were 12 sent out in pairs on the first sending and 72 in pairs on the second. The numbers are more obvious if you count the pairs 6 pairs and 36 pairs. The pairs which went out the first time get to be in charge of their own six pairs. Those who have done the work mentor others. The problem with people leaving and no one to replace them may not be totally gone, but enthusiastic people get training.

The reverse of that is finding out that someone is a teacher and asking them to lead the children’s work or youth work. Don’t you think that they might want time away from their paid work, especially if you expect them to do it without pay or expenses?

It’s a complex issue which cannot be solved by a single blog, but it does show up how much can be done by people helping people out. If only people were willing to give away their positions.

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