The Equipper Newsletter
July 1, 2011
Churches Equipping Saints for Service

 When My Volunteer is Smarter Than Me
by Karen Kogler

I know a thing or two about databases. I love how they organize information and the flexibility they offer over a spreadsheet; I can build a basic Access database. When I was hired as Director of Equipping at St. Peter Lutheran three years ago, I was eager to put our church database to full use.

Kerri, a woman in Bible class with me, volunteered to help. Very quickly, I realized she knew much more about databases than I did. She has designed and manipulated complex databases for very large organizations. When she disagreed with my suggestions, she was often proved right.

Church leaders, both paid and unpaid, love volunteers. But it gets complicated when our volunteers are smarter than we are. It didn't take me long to become comfortable with the reality that Kerri was smarter than me about databases. But when I imagine a volunteer who has more volunteerism experience and credentials than I do, who has stronger skills and has experienced more success than me in this area I love, I begin to get uneasy. Questions and insecurities arise. What if people like her more than they like me? Would I still be respected or would I become irrelevant? Would my job be in jeopardy?

Finish this article with suggestions for working with volunteers smarter than you, and for those who are the smart volunteer.
 Good Stuff
    Videos Communicate
    • During National Volunteer Week in April, the late night program Jimmy Kimmel Live aired this video clip: "You Too Can Volunteer." Start a discussion among leaders at your church. How true to life is this skit? 
    • One church shared this video they created to emphasize that it takes many people, not just a Super Pastor, to keep a church going.
    Service Project during worship! We used the time of the children's message to have everyone in our church make Witness Bracelets, pictured at the third bullet point here, by stringing beads on a cord. Other volunteers assembled packets of materials in advance, and handed out the packets as people entered church and collected the completed bracelets as they left the worship service. A mission team from our church will distribute the bracelets in Guatemala this summer.
    Good Stuff on the Web: Browse the long list of interesting topics in the archives of Energize Inc.'s monthly newsletters, such as "Volunteer Peer Training" in the Feb. 2011 issue and "Developing Work for Children" in the Sept. 2008 issue. I especially love Susan Ellis's suggestion to write job descriptions that kids can read for work done by kids.
      A Reader Asks

    "From our database we can run a report finding that 590 people are currently assigned to a position.  In order to get the percentage of people serving what number do I compare that to?  Should I compare it to the average worship attendance on Sundays or to the total number of active attendees?" from Kim in Massachusetts

    Good question, Kim. And good for you for aiming to count people who are serving. If we say that serving is important, and we want to encourage people to serve, we need to count in order to know if what we are doing is making a difference . . . or not!

    I haven't heard/read of any definitive answer to this question. And often, when people give a figure ("45% of our people are serving . . .) they neglect to mention what total they are using. So, in my humble opinion, use whatever 'total' you want. But in your description explain what total you are using. If you use 'active attendees,' have a definition handy for people who ask on how you defined 'active.'  -- KK
    More Questions and Responses

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