Graciously Receiving “No” from Volunteers

In a recent New York Times article, Frazzled Moms and Volunteerism, care for volunteers are raised. The landscape for families has changed dramatically since I have been in ministry. For over twelve years, I have seen families take on more and more. One family in a previous church was heavily involved in junior league hockey for their three boys. The catch was the only access they had to ice was between 12 midnight and 3 a.m. on Sunday. Times for church interfered with family rest time, so the parents could not serve as teachers or counselors for youth group.

Families will choose a multitude of activities for their children. There are so many pressures on parents to “lay the ground work” for or to “introduce” their children to all that a high school or college would be looking for in their student body. Parents are convinced that their children must be the best and brightest in order to succeed. (For those of you reading this wondering if I have children, yes, I have two young boys.) In my experience with children and youth and in my research of children and adolescence, children and youth want to know two things: 1) am I loved and 2) do I belong. But as parents, we get caught up in the hub-bub of activities and programs that will make our children the best.

Living in that reality, we have to appreciate when parents place boundaries on church activity and say ‘no’ to our needs in our ministry. Here are a couple of things to remember. First, how you handle the first ‘no’ may lead to the next ‘yes’. Always consider yourself to be a seed planter before a cruise director. Often, the best volunteers are the ones you’ve got to wait on. Second, the ‘no’ may represent a perception they have for their own child. In many other organizations, we place parents off to the side and do not give them an opportunity to serve as they may in the church. Offer to talk with the child, encourage the parent to talk to the child, to judge the situation. Third, train your way into volunteers. Don’t just offer training when you have volunteers, offer trainings to garner volunteers. You never know what people may hear!

There is prevenient grace in this particular iteration of ministry. I always wonder what it does for those in churches to name the challenges before families, so that they felt like we know them and their challenges even before they do. Maybe that is what the Lord requires of us: To love justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God’s children and their parents?

Rev. Andy Stoker    , PhD
Associate Minister
Lilly Resident
(214) 220-2727 ext 222
1928 Ross Ave.
Dallas Texas   75201

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