The Necessity of Church Volunteers

Venerable Pimen the Great

My beloved spiritual children in Christ,
Christ is in our midst! He was, is, and ever shall be.

At our recent parish council meeting one of the topics discussed was the importance and necessity of church volunteers. As all of you know every lay person engaged in any of the parish ministries is a church volunteer.

Volunteers perform most of the work in the church. Therefore, the local parish relies heavily on the work of church volunteers to accomplish its goals, programs and objectives. Someone said the following: "If a church is going to be effective, it has to be completely run by volunteers, in the sense that they are the ones who are mobilized to do the work of the various parish ministries." Thus volunteers are vital to the work of the church. It is common in every parish that the parish priest utilizes volunteers as Church School teachers, youth advisers, choir members, chanters and those serving in different parish committees.

Volunteering empowers individuals and enriches the parish. It is, however, very important for volunteers to know and understand the goals of the parish ministry and to whom they freely offer their services. Volunteer parishioners usually prefer to engage in work they enjoy. They also look forward to working with other church volunteers whom they know and the opportunity to get to know others who are new in the parish.

Volunteers need to be appreciated and respected. They need to know who is responsible for what, how decisions are made, how they can put their ideas forward. The volunteer chairperson of the individual ministry, committee, organization, fund-raising activity, must be open to advice, ideas and recommendations from his/her co-volunteers otherwise his/her fellow volunteers will lose interest and drop out. Open communication, mutual love and respect for one another are absolutely necessary.

A key principle is the recognition that the Christian volunteer is also a church steward. As a Christian he/she is governed and motivated by the fact that his/her service to the Church is a service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and Patron Saint of the parish. He/she is grateful and thankful to God for the opportunity to give of their time, talent and treasure without any hesitation, conditions or demands. The Christian volunteer must be humble, sincere, loving, respectful, kind, generous, unselfish and prayerful. Whatever the Christian volunteer does must always be for the Glory of God and not for personal glory, power, prestige or recognition. The only motivation for the true Christian should be his/her unconditional love for God.

It's not hard to serve as a church volunteer, you don't need any kind of training other than being willing to do anything that the ministry or program calls for; and if you think you don't have the time, setting aside an hour or so is enough to get into the habit and make a huge difference in the parish and also feel personally enriched and satisfied. Some people often think that volunteering in church is a huge commitment. That is not necessarily the truth. Your service does not have to be an ongoing thing. You can serve on a part time basis and you can still make an impact.

One thing that we must all understand, however, is that all volunteers are important in the life of the parish but no one is indispensable. Everyone can be replaced by someone else. We cannot permit our personal ego to take charge of us and to believe that "without me nothing can be done or accomplished". God always provides the right people at the right time. When ego or pride reveals its ugly head everything goes wrong.

Every parish has had bad experiences with people who volunteer their services for the wrong reasons. Jesus charges us to beware of those who "come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (St. Matthew 7:15). Over the many decades of service to the Church I have personally experienced this threat in almost every parish. "Orthodox Christians" and active members of the parish who wear a mask of virtue and goodness but who in reality cause division, hostility, confusion, turmoil and confusion. It is a fact that as long as a person is living in wickedness, he will not be able to "bear good fruit." The only purpose of these evil people to be involved and volunteer their services is to undermine the holy mission of the Church, to discredit the priest (the spiritual shepherd) of the church, and to attempt to destroy everything good within the parish. Saint Paul in Acts 20:29-30 says, "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves". Therefore we need to be vigilant and alert and be sure that the person who is offering to serve the church is a good and honest Christian and whose only motivation is to serve faithfully our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

May the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you and inspire you to serve Him for the rest of your life with love and faith.

In His Holy Diakonia,
+Father George