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The Concentric Circles of Church Volunteerism

POSTED: August 1, 2017 5:33 p.m.

Churches vary in how many paid personnel they have.

Some churches may only have one paid employee while other larger churches can have upwards of 50 or 100.

Yet, regardless of a church’s size or number of paid personnel, no church can fully function without volunteers from the membership.

I see volunteerism in a church as a series of concentric circles, like you’d get from dropping a stone into a pond.

At the very center, you find people who are quite involved, sometimes in nearly every activity in the Church.

As you move out toward the periphery, there are those who are involved, but not quite as much.

And in the outer circles, there are those who are simply not involved, except for worship.

There are three dynamics about this model of concentric circles that I believe are important.

First, we absolutely need people in every circle. It is wrong, I believe, to assume that the goal of a church just to move everyone to the center.

While there are those whose nature is to be involved in many things, there are also those who feel most comfortable simply being a member of the worshiping community.

The point here is this: We need them all.

And that brings up a second point.

It is not only common, but preferable, that people move toward and out of the center regularly.

Well there are those who feel most comfortable being very active in the church, they can easily get burned out.

And their mere presence often inhibits others who might volunteer from throwing their hat in the ring.

Likewise, there are those on the periphery who, while they feel very comfortable there, might really get a deeper understanding of the faith and their relationship with God by moving a circle or two inward on occasion – choosing a role in the church they might like.

It can be stifling to not only the church but also to one’s own spirituality to never move in word or outward.

Yet, no matter where you are in this regard, there is one other thing we might all agree on: Volunteers should be thanked.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that people volunteer in the church because they know they will be thanked.

In fact, in some cases they might prefer to not be thanked.

But they should be thanked. And sincerely.

One of the church’s tasks is to function as Jesus’s hands.

To me at least, that means we are to be gracious, loving, and thoughtful with those who come to us for spiritual care in Jesus’s name.

This “thanking” could be in the form of a recognition service or could be privately. But it should happen.

I confess that while I may have all these good ideas, I am not as good at remembering to thank the people who should be thanked.

Still, nothing about circles or thanking will really matter when those who serve our Lord meet Jesus someday.

I suppose that is when the real recognition ceremony takes place.


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