Screwtape Writes on Church Volunteers?

In his popular book The Screwtape Letters, author C.S. Lewis imagined an experienced devil named Screwtape writing letters to advise his young nephew Wormwood on how to move people toward hell and away from their enemy, God. One day I imagined how Screwtape might advise Wormwood to handle people who volunteer at their church.

My dear Wormwood,

Yes, I agree it’s a great disappointment when the individual you’re working on becomes involved as a volunteer at their church. When they decide to give their time and ability to their church, it’s most often a result of their growing attachment to the Enemy. And the more time they spend at church, and with other people in the Enemy’s camp, the worse it is for us.

But don’t give up hope. There is much we can do to move them back toward us, even while they’re still volunteering.

Get them complaining, but tell them they’re only trying to make things better around church.

We actually can do much of our usual work even while they are working at church. Encourage gossip, while telling them it’s just sharing news of what’s going on at church. Surely you can bring to their mind things they don’t like about their coworkers or, especially, their leaders. Get them complaining, but tell them they’re only trying to make things better around church.

If they are veteran volunteers, encourage them to hang on to whatever it is they’re doing, even if they no longer like it. When they need help, discourage them from asking for it. They’ll burn out faster and there will be no one to replace them. Or they’ll continue, but they’ll feel like noble martyrs, and that gives us lots of good material to work on. Either way, it shuts others out from getting involved, which is also much to our advantage.

Remember that change is difficult for human beings, so frequently bring to mind that wonderful phrase, “We’ve always done it that way.” For hell’s sake, don’t let them think about the purpose behind their task, or whether there might be other, better ways to do something. This is especially useful for keeping others from becoming volunteers, because new people generally have new ideas. If we can keep new ideas out, we’re likely to keep new people from getting sucked in to church volunteering.

Here’s one of my favorites. Help them equate being “nice” with being Christian, and teach them that being “nice” means ignoring any problems, sweeping conflict under the rug, and never saying anything that might cause a hurt feeling. Don’t let them think at all of that “speak the truth in love” stuff that the Enemy put in his book. You see, when human beings work together, there’s bound to be conflict. And conflict gives us lots of wonderful opportunities, as long as they don’t deal with it well.

If you work it right, you can even get them to neglect their family and their own time reading the Enemy’s book because they’re “too busy serving God.”

As long as they’re volunteering anyway, an especially useful tactic is to keep them busy. Really busy. It’s not hard to do, because they like to think the more work they do, the more spiritual they are. They help us out in this by using guilt to get others to volunteer, and some people will respond by volunteering without thinking it through. It’s also easy for us because humans these days like to cram as many activities and responsibilities into their day as possible. Church staff and leaders are prone to super busyness because people will like them more if they get lots done. We’re even more fortunate because humans are going through an economic downturn now, so they’re often cutting back on staff but expecting the remaining staff to take on extra tasks. And all that rushing around to get everything done gives us lots of opportunities.

The busier they are, the more likely they will get tired and cranky with each other. We can have lots of fun when that happens. Keep them busy, and they don’t take time to talk to each other. Even better, keep them too busy to listen to each other. We know things are going our way when other people become an interruption to them. Just keep reminding them that their tasks are much more important than people!

Keep them too busy to plan ahead. The less planning and prioritizing they do, the better. We’re especially in good shape when they don’t have time to evaluate what they’re doing. If their work isn’t effective, we don’t have nearly as much to worry about.

When they’re overly busy at church they often don’t even notice that they aren’t doing the other things the Enemy wants them to do, such as giving those physical bodies of theirs the rest, healthy food, and exercise it needs. If you work it right, you can even get them to neglect their family and their own time reading the Enemy’s book because they’re “too busy serving God.” That’s really fun to see! Keeping them serving at church can also help by keeping them away from people who are in our camp. We certainly don’t want Christians influencing our people!

That should give you plenty to work with, Wormwood. Although it does cause us terror when those humans give willingly of their time and talent to the Enemy, remember, all is not lost.

But one last, very important, point. Quickly distract them whenever they think to pray about how much and what they are doing. The Enemy is way too quick to answer when they ask him for guidance.

Your affectionate uncle,


Leave a Reply