Paid or Volunteer?

Paid or Volunteer?

What work is done by staff at your church? What work is done by volunteers? Usually, the line between the two is pretty clear. Some positions (pastor, secretary) are filled by employees. Others (Sunday school teacher, usher) are volunteer positions.

When that line is unclear, or cause of disagreement, emotions run high. The root issue is easily overlooked, with significant kingdom impact.

  • For a new position, or when someone retires, do we hire or do we seek a volunteer?
  • Some musicians are unhappy that other musicians are paid but they are not.
  • When highly skilled volunteers start working alongside staff, staff feel their job is threatened by the financial advantages of volunteers.
  • Some skilled volunteers feel they are being taken advantage of when asked to freely give skills that put bread on the table.

Paid or volunteer? This question is best decided in the context of the needs of the position and the desires of qualified workers. Since we all need to earn our daily bread, when the position requires 20 plus hours a week or professional level training and experience, we likely will find more qualified workers among those seeking employment than among those able to volunteer.

This is the reality for volunteers, too. Sometimes those who are asked to volunteer will need to lovingly say, “I’m sorry, but I can’t donate my skills and time in this way. I need to use them to help support me and my family.”

On the other hand, someone blessed by God with more than adequate financial resources might volunteer to work 20 or even 40 hours a week as Children’s ministry director, business manager, secretary, musician or director of volunteer equipping.

But when we’re asking ‘paid or volunteer,’ an underlying assumption is often the real issue. We feel that if it’s important that the job is done well, and if we want to hold the worker accountable, we need to pay them. A volunteer, because they’re a volunteer, doesn’t have to be dependable and can’t be held to any standard.

Here’s the truth. Both church volunteers and church employees can and should be held accountable to a schedule and to job duties that are clearly spelled out and mutually agreed to in advance. Both should only accept jobs they are qualified for. Both need training and support to do their job well. Both are serving their Lord in their church.

Do we believe that? Can volunteers be trusted and held accountable? The consequences truly do have massive kingdom impact. In one view, the majority of the church’s workforce is limited to work that doesn’t really matter because we don’t trust them or hold them accountable. In the other view, the entire workforce joins together, as each is gifted and able, so “the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:16).

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