Canned Peaches or Fresh Lettuce?

I’ve been thinking of keeping a can of peaches and a head of lettuce in my office. Or bringing them to the next staff meeting. Or pulling them out the next time I talk to some ministry leaders about volunteers.

It goes back a few years. Some Sunday school leaders were cleaning out a supply closet and they brought me what they found there: an institution-size can of peaches. We couldn’t figure out how that had been used in Sunday school! Then someone remembered that, years before, that closet had been a pantry for the school kitchen. The lonely can of peaches must have been left behind in the transition. What really surprised and shocked us was that the can of peaches wasn’t yet past its expiration date!

I remember those peaches sometimes when I follow up with leaders who’ve been asked to contact a person who expressed interested in the ministry they lead. Many leaders follow up promptly. Others, however, take 3-4 weeks to make contact. Or they send one email and that’s it. Or, if the ministry is seasonal, like lawn cutting, they say, “I’ll give him a call when we’re ready to start.”

It’s as if volunteers were canned peaches. You can put them on a shelf and when you come back to them months later, they’ll be ready to go.

But people are more like fresh lettuce. You know how it goes with lettuce. You decide to fix a salad. But when you open the frig, you discover your lettuce is liquefying into slimy mush, even though it hasn’t been that long since you bought it.

When people express interest in a ministry, they’re sincere. But when there’s no prompt follow-up, life gets in the way. They’re involved in other things; they take on other new commitments. When finally contacted months later, they find it hard to drum up interest or time.

But even if it’s snowing when they express interest in lawn-cutting, when someone calls them promptly, meets them between services at church so they have a face to go with the name, introduces them to others on the lawn team, and talks about the importance of the job and the fun the people have, then when the grass starts growing, they’ll be ready to serve.

A volunteer’s interest or commitment is lettuce, not peaches. Don’t let it sit on the shelf. Make a salad right away!


(P.S. How do we get people expressing interest in specific ministries? We meet with our new members to ask how they wish to get involved and connection in our congregation. You can do it, too. See “How to Help New Members Serve” and “Christmas Gifts” for details.

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