REST & Should Faithful Long-time Volunteers Take a Break?

by Bob Whitesel, 5/20/15.

Sometimes my students share their frustrations with long-time volunteers who at some point give up and just want to take a break from volunteering.  Because we still need these leaders (and in addition they are highly skilled) we often dissuade them from taking such leaves of absence.  Here is how one student described the situation, “What do you do with individuals who have had a long history of faithful service but after feeling burned out they now only attend and virtually are doing nothing to serve in the church?”

Well, I may surprise you, but I believe that dear faithful saints should at some point rest from their labors.  I see God giving us an example of this in the Sabbath that He Himself took (if there was someone who did not need this, it was Him 🙂  Thus, I have no problem with dear long-working saints wanting to enjoy their twilight years and/or taking time off to enjoy the church in harmony and peace.

I think the problem is exacerbated because there are usually few people ready to replace them.  This in my mind is not their fault, for the newcomers are usually a different generation than the long-serving volunteers, and the experienced workers don’t naturally relate to them.  Thus, they do not reach out to them.

I believe the fault lies with our training and assimilation systems.  Most churches do not have training for new leaders, as well as small groups to give new leaders a support system.  Thus, we rely upon long-working saints from our church culture to not only do their volunteer work, but also reach out across a cultural gap and recruit new volunteers who are unfamiliar with church culture.  The task is too large and the gap to wide for busy volunteers.  And thus, church leadership must step in with leadership training designed for new attendees.

Plus, because most church leadership training is focused upon existing volunteers this makes volunteers feel even more overwhelmed, as they try to juggle their volunteer work with more (required) leadership training.  Thus, I suggest we go easy on training for existing leaders, and focus more of our attention on the training of potential or new leaders.

I often ask my students, “Do some of you have avenues that foster such neophyte leadership training?  If you do, share them here and let’s inspire potential leaders for fruitful ministry.”  How about you?  If such programs don’t come to mind, how about doing some sleuthing on the Internet and finding some programs that develop new volunteers.  It will probably be more productive than trying to retrain burned-out ones.