Volunteers, not just a college mascot

I rely on volunteers completely. If I didn’t have people volunteering to be there on Sunday then I would be leading the songs all by myself. Actually, there is one woman, Helen Scott, who receives a stipend because she sets up the equipment all by herself (we worship in a gymnasium so all the chairs and music equipment are put away after every service and then set back up every Saturday). But my point still stands that as the man responsible for facilitating worship music every Sunday, I must depend completely on volunteers. Volunteers can be great. They are motivated, committed, and affordable. However, there are pitfalls of basing any logistical system on them because of a few typical traits of volunteers.

Volunteers get burnt out. Many folks on my team will say that they would never get tired of being on the team. However, burnout may come from other parts of their lives, and it takes different forms like getting sick, marital stress, constant tardiness, and CG(chronic grumpiness). When people find that their lives are overloaded, often the first thing to get cut out is their volunteer activities.

Volunteers are not accountable. I’m not saying that I have discipline issues with my team. But, a teacher has the grading system, a boss has the paycheck, a coach has the bench, but as a church music director, I have little more than persistant nagging. I might be able to threaten a person that I will remove them from the team, but usually, I can’t afford to carry out that threat. Lack of accountability also means that anyone at anytime can tell me that they are going out of town, taking a week off, or have lost interest.

I wonder how many people imagine my job is something like American Idol. As if I sit around auditioning eager church members singing their hearts out just for a chance to be on the team. Instead, I have a team of volunteers (God bless’em) who are spread thin by weeks and weeks of shuffling people around from job to job filling gaps when they appear. Then every week after all that shuffling when I get a team together by the skin of my teeth, the service comes off and everyone in the congregation is oblivious to any need. It makes me wonder what it might be like if I didn’t do anything to fill gaps; if I just let the problems persist. “Good morning, church! Today in the band we have bass, maracas, and flute! Ready? and-a-one, and a-two, and-a . . .”

Of course, I realize that this is a pretty rotten way of thinking, and it reflects the kind of week that I have had. This week I have been so discouraged and frustrated by the apparent lack of resources, the loss of team members, the lack of new recruits, etc. But, wait a minute! God has provided so much for us. When I think of what we lack it is small in comparison to the rich blessings that have been poured out on this church. Who am I, that I should question God’s choice of timing and providence? No accountability with volunteers?! Why can’t I just ask the Lord for more volunteers, ask the Lord for more patience, ask the Lord to preserve us from burnout?

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