Volunteer Labor and Religion

Volunteer Labor and Religion October 3, 2023

Volunteer Labor and Religion

Volunteer Labor and Religion
Photo by Julia M Cameron: pexels.com

I remember vividly that day! It was a Saturday afternoon in Nebraska, and it had snowed all day the day before. The church parking lot had over a foot of snow because of drifting and the location of this smaller parking lot.

Jim and I were young deacons, and per the pastor’s request, we were trying to solve the dilemma of what to do with all the snow before tomorrow’s service. Our church didn’t prearrange this “pushing of the snow,” and all removal crews were swamped already.

Since the pastor couldn’t be troubled, we took this matter into our own hands. We gathered all available snow shovels and began to make trails through the unending pile of heavy, frozen precipitation. Everyone who has ever shoveled snow knows there is a point where there is enough accumulation to make it ridiculous to try to shovel by hand. This was a correct assessment of our parking lot.

After about two hours, we sat down, discouraged at what we had accomplished. As intelligent young deacons, we cursed the other deacons (servants) and the rest of the “lazy” congregation, but eventually, we became angry enough to keep pushing on.

“As unto the Lord!” we shouted to each other through ski masks and stocking hats.

After a few more hours of anger-induced fervent action, we achieved our primary goal of clearing enough of the lot to make it passable if you were wearing snow boots. We were exhausted but content that we were “doers” and good examples of what a deacon should be like.

As we looked over our work, we were proud and rested in the assurance that we would be duly recognized tomorrow at church. Just as we were about to leave, we heard the engine roar and realized a truck owner with a “blade” had just made his first pass through our handiwork, exposing the blacktop below.

The driver waved excitedly as we hobbled to vehicles and left. The next morning, we sat expectantly, massaging sore muscles and waiting for recognition. We certainly planted the seed to several key people that we had worked very hard.

“I want to thank Jerrfrey Jones, who was driving by and volunteered to push the snow yesterday!” the head deacon exclaimed before taking the offering.

Defeat! Saying anything at this point would only make us look bad and desperate for attention. It’s a situation I found myself in often in the church.

Rather than sharing my conclusions about volunteer labor and the church, I would rather ask some questions and let you draw your conclusions.

Volunteer Labor and Religion

Why do we have to pay (offerings) and are still required to do most of the work (service)?

Why do pastors/staff demand personal/family time but expect us to “serve” during our free time?

What qualifies some in the church to direct the work and others to do it?

Why does God need a huge building, an expensive staff, and tons of already tired people to do his work?

Doesn’t it sound like brainwashing when someone convinces us to do all the work to fulfill their vision?

Why does the lead pastor get to go on expensive trips while their associate pastors “holds down the fort?”

Aren’t we just mimicking capitalism and Corporate America?

Wouldn’t we be disappointed in a charity that spends 70% of its donations on the building and staff, like the church?

I’m not saying that nothing good happens in all that mess. Still, often, I wonder whether the average church member wouldn’t be better just staying home on Sunday and donating directly to a properly researched charity that uses its resources wisely.

Either way, it’s up to me, not my pastor, when and where I invest my time and money. Making his/her dreams come true can’t be my primary motivation.

Be where you are,

Be who you are.

Be at peace!

Karl Forehand

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Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Out into the Desert, Leaning Forward,  Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart, The Tea Shop and Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity.  He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary podcast and community.  He is married to his wife Laura of 35 years and has one dog named Winston.  His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply! You can read more about the author here



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