Some of you “worship leaders” have asked me to write about my adventures as the new volunteer “leader of worship leaders” at my church. Well, it’s not adventurous really; not yet. We’ve only taken our first step together. But that step is one we’ve never taken before and is worth a mention I think.
We gathered our volunteers together to ask them to make four commitments: two spiritual and two musical.
- Worship God all week long. Will you commit to forming a habit of listening to and responding to God all week long by daily asking God to speak to you, reading the Bible, meditating on what God says to you through it, and praying? These basic disciplines help us to “abide” in Christ, to be “branches” tightly connected to the “Vine” because “apart from Him you can do nothing.” (John 15)
- Treat us like a church, not a gig. Will you commit to being part of our community on Sunday regardless of whether you are scheduled to volunteer or not? As volunteers we’re serving not only God but our community called “church.” We do this out of deep love for both. This love compels us to be part of this community not just when we’re scheduled to serve but anytime we’re able – every Sunday we’re in town and not serving someone else in need.
- Be prepared. Will you commit to practicing your part during the week so that by Sunday morning you are prepared to serve free of self-consciousness and anxiety? Sunday morning is not to the time to learn your part, but the time to put the parts together into one beautiful whole. Every Tuesday night you will receive a song list, chord charts and mp3s and you always have access to our leaders and other players if you need help of any kind during the week as you practice your part.
- Be teachable. Will you commit to listen to others and learn from them, especially your section leader? None of us, not even leaders, have arrived – we all have a great deal to learn about our instruments from each other. Our section leaders are our main teachers, available to you for mentoring on your instrument. They may also, at times, respectfully and kindly offer unsolicited critique and instruction. The better we become at our instruments, the less self-conscious and anxious we become and the more joy we experience in serving.
Then, I asked them to take a week to pray and talk with family about their ability to make these commitments for the next six months.
The healthiest volunteer organizations do not ask for an open-ended commitment. In other words, most churches are not healthy because the Sunday school teacher, the bass player, the volunteer counselor are all asked to commit without time limit. When a volunteer is struggling, it’s harder to persevere and serve cheerfully when there’s no end to their struggle in sight. But a volunteer can stick it out more easily and cheerfully when they know their perseverance has a finish line and they know exactly when that is. Paradoxically, volunteers are more loyal when they’re given the freedom to quit at the end of their term.
Then, I promised: No matter how passionate and gung-ho a volunteer is I will not allow him to commit to more than six months of service at a time. No matter how amazing and integral a musician is to our community I will not be upset if they cannot make these commitments at this time and I will not try to change their mind.
Sometimes we assume that because we’re great at teaching, God wants us to teach at church. Or because we can sing we should sing at church. But only God knows what the next six months hold. He knows that in a couple months our spouse will be sick, our kids’ class will need a teacher, our responsibilities at work will increase and we won’t have time to practice, we’ll be wronged by a neighbor and nurse a grudge that hinders our sincerity in worship. Our talent is not an automatic “yes” from God. We need to ask his permission and our family’s before committing to six months of service.
I also reminded our volunteers that we currently have more musicians on rotation than we have people willing to love and serve children and youth. And children are a higher priority. My hope is that some of our musicians will in fact bow out and serve children for the next six months.
So, if you serve at your church in any capacity, I’d like to hear what that commitment and experience is like? How could your church better serve those who serve her? Leave a comment. Teach me something!