Haha, I’m guessing a lot of church volunteers clicked on this post and were like, “AWW yeah, I know what’s up! Time to read the TRUTH!” haha. I tried to think of the most click-bait title I could come up with. Isn’t it annoying when people do that?! The title is only half true. Sort of. Not really. But kinda.
I haven’t been a church-goer in years.
Before I was 17 years old, socially I was shy, I keep to myself, and I was a follower. One day in youth group, a very good friend of mine and mentor told me that I was stronger than I thought. He said he saw a leader in me and that I would lead someday. I laughed him off. ME? A leader?? I’m a nervous wreck whenever I talk in front of people. Not to mention I’m awkward as hell. How could I possibly lead anyone?? But this truth that Mike spoke into me began to make a home. Years following that word I was transformed and I began to walk in this new part of my identity.
When I was 18, I found out that I loved youth ministry. It was where I thrived. Being a youth leader came as naturally to me as loving food. Very naturally. Relating with the kids, not being fake, being there for them when they needed help, listening to their problems, talking about God, bringing Truth into their circumstance. I loved it all. It was clear that I had a gift in this.
Naturally, whatever church I was a part of, Fountain of Life, Mars Hill, St. Pauls Auckland, etc. I joined the youth ministry team. It was normal for me. When I was a part of Fountain of Life, I had two jobs. Youth Leader/Pastor and AV team. Sometimes the youth group would go on a long event out of town. I would film a promo during the event, get back home, stay up all night, edit the footage, clean it up, export it, and then present it the next morning to church-goers. Tiring stuff. When I joined The Edge church, I also helped run slides in the morning because I had found another thing I was good at.
You can see the pattern. Pretty soon, volunteering took place of regularly attending church. If I was doing AV, I wasn’t really participating. This was true when I attended Fountain of Life Church and when I attended The Edge. Going to church as a kid and teenager was the last time that I can remember regularly going to church and participating as a congregant.
I realized something. I was missing out on a lot! I could catch up on sermons online sometimes, but I’d lose the community. I could attend a small group, but sometimes I’d be pretty tired from working all day. I’d have a team so that I wouldn’t be doing AV or youth ministry all the time, but when I would attend a service, it felt like I was a guest at times.
Volunteers are the heart AND the blood pumping the infant/kid’s ministries, tear-down/setup, sound desk, lights, creative team, printing sermon notes, and countless other ministries. Often, they can feel overworked, and removed from the weekly church experience.
When I said at the beginning that I haven’t been a church-goer in years, I meant that I haven’t stopped and just attended a church in a while. The first time I did this was actually at St. Pauls. They had an evening service, which meant I would help lead the morning youth service and then attend the evening service. It felt good. Getting direction from the pulpit and worshiping with friends in a church I attended. GROUNDBREAKING! haha.
I’m attending a church now in Colorado…actually attending. Will I start volunteering in the youth ministry? Possibly. Will I first take this as a time to just be. Absolutely.
Bottom Line is this: Keep an eye on your volunteers. They work tirelessly to keep things running. They do so because they want to feel belonging, because they want to help, because they’re good at it, or because they see a need and fill the void. Whatever their reasons, take care of them, and appreciate what they do.
To be clear, volunteering didn’t take church from me, haha. If anything, youth ministry taught me to be selfless, humble, and that instilling values into the next generation could be one of the greatest calls of a church. AV taught me that pastors will get you sermon notes at 7am Sunday morning, haha. LAWLZ. But seriously, it’s the worst.