Are All Volunteers the Same?

Joey Espinosa —  October 5, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: We would like to welcome Joey Espinosa to the Kidmin1124 team.  We are certain that you will find his contributions to be useful and illuminating.  Please take a second to welcome Joey by commenting on this article below.

I work in an after school program with two other people (all of us part-time) and a handful of volunteers. As with most ministries, we are highly dependent on our volunteers to have an impact on the children who come and who want to come.  In fact, we currently have a waiting list due to an insufficient amount of leaders.

Recently, in a discussion about volunteers in our program, someone told me that we need to treat all volunteers the same. According to this logic, because all volunteers give something, they are equally valuable, and should be given parallel responsibilities and privileges.

I disagree!

Volunteers do have equal value, but that’s because value is intrinsically from the God who created us and saved us.

But volunteers are also different. They have:

  • Different strengths,
  • Different levels of responsibility, and
  • Different rewards.

Therefore, they should not all be treated the same.

Different Strengths

Volunteers with unique skills, experiences, and passions should contribute in specific ways. The failure to recognize and act on this principle is one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make. It’s one way that I erred for years in ministry. I would see a need and then look for any warm body to fill it.

Operating outside of one’s gifting and passion will, given enough time, burn that person out. While we (especially as our ministries grow larger) need to create a general framework for volunteer roles, we must also recognize the need for helping people serve in a role that is the right fit for them.

When I was a children’s pastor, we had a young lady who was serving in an upfront, on-stage role. She was OK, at best. Near the end of the school year, I talked with her about serving in another capacity – leading a preschool class of two-year-olds. She spent a year there, and we saw that it was a closer fit, but not quite right. The following year, she moved to four-year-olds, where she has been serving for 5 years now, and she loves it.

Creating and finding roles for each person will take work, but that is our call as leaders.

Different Levels of Responsibilities

Every volunteer needs a place to start. But that doesn’t mean they should necessarily stay at that level. And their level of leadership doesn’t equate to their value or need. Here are a couple of examples.

When my older son was a toddler, he had a certain couple love on him every week in the nursery. They were perfect for the role of nursery worker – they were patient, loved getting on the floor with the kids, kept order, followed the safety policies, and didn’t mind a little bit of chaos.

Year after year, they were the most highly-requested nursery volunteers. And since (being the children’s pastor) I had a say in the matter, my younger son “just so happened” to have them as his leaders when he was a toddler. This couple was perfectly gifted to serve in this role, and we never thought for a moment to move them to another area.

But at other times, we asked other volunteers who were great in a small group setting to be Volunteer Coaches. These Coaches had developed (or were developing) skills as leaders, and were superb in administrative responsibilities. While they were having a great impact the classroom, we explained that we needed them to create 3 or 4 other volunteers who were just like them. We needed them to multiply their ministry impact.

Were the nursery workers any more or less valuable than the Coaches? Not at all! But the Volunteer Coaches were leaders of leaders. They shared more of a responsibility and burden for our ministry.

And a great level of responsibility should elicit a great level of rewards, which leads us to our third point.

Different Rewards

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus is clear that He will reward His followers according to their faithfulness. We are not equally gifted, but we are equally empowered.

Whatever role and level of responsibilities we are called to, God is looking for the same level of faithfulness. That level is a matter of choice for each person.

For example, think of the degrees of faithfulness that a kidmin Small Group Leader can show. How often does he serve? Is she usually on-time or late? Does he use the provided curriculum or just play with the kids the entire time? Does she bring occasional treats for the kids?

With such a vast spectrum in faithfulness, the rewards should not be equal. Some of the earned rewards may be short-term, like small gifts, invite-only leadership dinners, and public recognition. And some of the rewards are reserved for eternity, like having a kingdom-level impact and unimaginable heavenly rewards that only our Father can give (Matthew 6:4).

Conclusion

Volunteers are equal, and volunteers are different. They are equal in value, and they can be equal in faithfulness to God’s call.

But volunteers are different in their strengths, different in their levels of responsibilities, and are due different rewards.

 

Joey Espinosa

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After 10 years of working as a chemist, and 4 years as a full-time Pastor of Children & Families, Joey now works at-risk children (and their families) in the most impoverished area in his state. He is married to his best friend, and they have three children who are enjoying their family's adventure!