The Equipper Newsletter
March 1, 2009
Churches Equipping Saints for Service

 Volunteers are not Free
 by Karen Kogler

Are volunteers “free labor”? Of course they are. By definition, volunteers perform a task without receiving payment for it. So we find it easy to think of volunteers as free labor, the opposite of staff who are paid to work. If a volunteer updates addresses in the computer, it’s free; if the paid secretary does it, it’s not free.

But costs come in other forms than dollars and cents, even for paid workers. Smart employers, realizing business success is directly related to retaining good employees, make sure workers have a desirable benefit package, a good working environment, the right tools for the job, initial and ongoing training, opportunity for advancement, some flexibility to deal with personal and family crises and so on. Employees often rate some of these items higher than salary in job satisfaction surveys.

But church volunteers serve primarily for love of their Savior and their church. They are not seeking payment, benefits, freebies, or other compensation. Most would say they don’t want acknowledgement or even a thank you!

But when any of us—salaried or volunteer; at church, work or home--perform a task for someone else, we do have certain requirements, which cost that person or organization something. If a church ignores these costs when it comes to their volunteers, in the long run they hamper the volunteer (often losing them as a volunteer in the process) and diminish the return received by the church, hindering their mission. What are these needs and what do they cost?

  • Last month's newsletter included a question from Brenda, a reader, about having "too many volunteers." Insights from another reader, and an update from Brenda, now follow the initial response. Click here and scroll down.
  • My apologies that The Equipper store has been 'closed' for quite a while. The move to a new website host required creation of a new store which, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, will be completed by the next issue.
 Got Time?
Each person in our churches makes choices about how they spend their time. Those choices affect the whole church, in many ways. Helping people be good stewards of their time is a major part of helping them serve. The challenge for the church is that for some people, being a good time steward means volunteering less at church.
Some interesting resources:
  • Healthy families lead to healthy volunteers. "Three Big Questions for the Frantic Family" offers a useful approach to restoring sanity to the family schedule. 
  • How much leisure time do people have? How do they use it? Results of a Harris poll are published in "Precious Little Time."
  • A bloggers asks church workers (but it applies to any of us) if perhaps our busyness is related to unhealthy appetities in "The Gluttony of Time."
 More Good Stuff on the Web
  • An outline of how one church planned a "Volunteer Expo" to recruit volunteers for their Children's Ministry: part 1 and part 2
  • Recent research by the Barna Group on how Christians view their own spiritual gifts.
  • Group Publishing has an "Equipping Ministry Blog"

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The Equipper Newsletter published monthly by
Karen Kogler, Equipper Church Volunteerism Resources