First of all, thank you. Too many pastors (myself sometimes included) forget these two words. Whatever it is that you do, if it is clean the toilets, pick up garbage, hold babies, teach a class, lead a small group, greet, direct the parking lot, work on the tech team, take kids to the restroom, work security, sponsor youth, or something else that I can not think of please hear these words: IT IS VITAL TO THE CHURCH! You may think that your role is insignificant, but it is so important. As a pastor, if I was to have to do all the things that volunteers do in my church, I would never have time to plan Sunday’s activities.
In many ways, the role of the volunteer is just as important or more important than the role of the Pastor. It is easy as a pastor to lose touch with “the world”. I once saw a graph that depicted the percentage of non-believer friends a person has when the receive Christ and the decline of that percentage as their life goes on as a Christ follower. Basically, the longer you are a Christ follower, the less non-Christian friends you have. As a pastor, the decline happens exponentially faster. The less in touch with “the world” a pastor becomes, the more difficult it is to invite or bring others into the church. Volunteers who understand the vision of the church, and are passionate about it are the key to churches being successful in their communities.
The sacrifices that volunteers make is huge. I am continually amazed especially by my midweek volunteers. Some of them work all day, go home for a quick bite and change of clothes, then come and serve the kids for their evening. Others work nights, so they wake up, eat their “breakfast” and come to church before heading off to work. I think this is the equivalent of waking up at 3:30 am, getting ready for work, but rather than going straight to work, going to volunteer at church, then going to work. Not only do volunteers sacrifice their time (which by the way is a person’s most valuable commodity), but also their opportunity to be ministered to. Many volunteer times occur during church service times.
I recall a certain usher at one church I ministered in. This guy was probably in his mid 70’s fighting stomach cancer. At one point could barely stand up straight. Nevertheless, he loved his church and being an usher. Each week he stood his post, for at least a few years after being diagnosed. As far as I know, he is still standing at the door every week his team is on call. That is a sacrifice that gets me on my feet and ready to serve him and the people he is passionate about serving.
It is easy to become discouraged in volunteering. There is little recognition, seldom thanked, frequently taken advantage of, and you may feel trapped in your ministry because you love your ministry and you want it to succeed, but are ready for a break or to do something else. Know this: God sees what is done in secret and is ready to publicly reward those who are faithful. I am reminded of Jesus’ parable about the master who went on vacation leaving his servants in charge of different sums of money. His words to the ones who handled his money well resonate in my heart: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” It’s about using what God gave you.
I dare say on behalf of every pastor in America: “Thank you for serving. You are making a difference in people’s lives and in eternity.”