I actually laughed out loud when our new Formission Director asked if I would write a blog post on discipling volunteers. You’ve got to be kidding me!?! I had literally just walked out of my senior pastor’s office from a conversation – nay, pity party – about the incredibly overwhelming shortage of volunteers I’m currently experiencing. It’s been a couple of weeks now of discouragement, lament, questioning and raking my brain to figure out solutions (if there are even solutions to be found). In fact, as I write this now, my list of holes for this week’s ministry is growing and I’m contemplating cancelling this week. Is that too honest?
Perhaps the loudest thought in my mind right now is this: “What am I doing wrong?” Surely, I’m dropping the ball somewhere on this.
Maybe I’m not cultivating discipleship?
Maybe I’m not creating ownership?
Maybe I’m a terrible leader?
You can see how the questions spiral right into a pit of self loathing where the only balm for my aching heart seems to be a chocolate bar the size of my large Dutch husband and a bag of Doritos big enough to swim in. Oh dear…
So here I am trying to figure out what wisdom to impart to you and literally drowning (in that bag of chips, remember?!) Okay. Time to dust off my fingers, brush off the crumbs, and stop the pity party – even if the snacks are great.
I’ve decided that while there are a million “maybes” and “what ifs” I could consider, I need to focus on what’s true, and somehow tie all of this together under the banner of mutual health. Three things come to mind – only three – but they’re helping me to stay on track, while maintaining my love and value for my team.
1. It’s not personal.
After being bombarded with continual messages of “no” it’s hard not to take things personally. It feels like people are saying “no” to me, not the program, not the ministry, not even the blessed little children we serve. While I’m sure there are people in the world who truly do decide to back off from certain tasks because they don’t like a leader or their style, most of the messages I receive each week are because people are sick, busy, overbooked, vacationing, etc.
They don’t hate me – it’s not personal. So, I need to stop taking it personally and guard my heart from developing any bitterness or hurt toward that person. It’s unnecessary and unproductive – and, truthfully, it makes me miserable. Those emotions are easy to let in when we are already discouraged and overwhelmed. It’s much more difficult to receive the “no” and then move on but that’s the direction we need to start taking.
2. Some people do show up.
I haven’t experienced a week yet when every single person backed out on me. Maybe it’s coming – oh dear. Every week faithful people – sometimes just a few – show up. They come with a smile or with a yawn, sometimes with a uniform from work or eating their supper as they walk in BUT they’re there. It’s easy to be distracted by the gaping holes in ministry rather than pausing for a moment to see the wonderful people who are there serving, loving and giving even when it hurts or comes at a cost. So I’m reminding myself this week of that young person who always shows up early and hasn’t missed a single night. I’m smiling big at the elderly woman of God who’s well past her prime but hobbles in to love little kiddos each week. I’m high fiving the sound guy who never misses and faithfully shuts it all down after our program is done. Wow… I forgot it, but I’m blessed.
It’s easy to be distracted by the gaping holes in ministry rather than pausing for a moment to see the wonderful people who are there
3. Appreciation is still important.
Lastly, while there are times I want to knock somebody on the nose because I’m so frustrated, it’s still important to show appreciation, say thank you and value the work of those who do give and serve. It still matters. Everything we do for the kingdom of God is significant. We serve a God who sees the worth in a cup of cold water. Surely, he sees the sacrifice of our volunteers and the big or little that they give to Him. Not only does God see it but as a leader it’s my job to see it too: Not just to see it but to value it, call it out and really give thanks for it. Every one of us needs to know that what we’ve given matters to someone and to God, and sometimes it even inspires us to give more. When I’m tempted to focus only on the lack I’m experiencing, it’s probably time to start saying “thank you” to somebody!
When I’m tempted to focus only on the lack I’m experiencing, it’s probably time to start saying “thank you” to somebody!
I haven’t figured all of this stuff out. In fact, I may still have to cancel tomorrow night. BUT God has shifted my perspective even just a little. So, while I’m still praying for wisdom and asking the Lord of the harvest for workers, I think I have a picture of what I need to be doing – and it doesn’t involve swimming in Doritos.
Ashley Kentie currently serves as a Youth and Children’s pastor at Springdale Pentecostal Church in Springdale, Newfoundland. As well as being a gifted communicator, she compiles her thoughts on life, ministry, and the mundane on her blog: www.spillinthebeans.ca