Never Say “Volunteer”

“Brothers, we are not professionals.”- John Piper

The obvious corollary to this dictum is, “Brothers and sisters, we are not volunteers.”


We’ve struggled in the first 18 months or so to set up some rhythms in our church life so that we are sharing the ongoing tasks like childcare, set-up, and especially kitchen clean-up.

We have a pot luck before each of our evening services. Since we’re one of those environmentally-conscious communities, we don’t want to throw a bunch of serviceware away week after week. So we bought mismatched plates, silverware, and cloth napkins from the thrift store, along with several boxes of mason jars from (gasp!) Walmart. That means that somebody has to wash and store those things every Sunday night from about 8:30-9:15pm.

How do you get people to volunteer commit to serve in this capacity? One of our most quiet, awesome young gals came up with the following solution:

Hello people of Jesus.

I am in charge of putting together the kitchen cleaning-and-break-down schedule for July.

I’m trying something new. Instead of frantically asking a handful of people at the last minute (which is what it always ends up being because I’m either an extraordinary over-preparer or a deadline-breaking slacker), I’m making the whole month’s list beforehand.

Now. You may have noticed that I may have not asked you but I am, rather, telling you that you are on the schedule for a certain time and day. This is easier for me than waaaaaaiiiiting for people to get back to me. …

If you wish to unschedule yourself for out-of-town reasons or previous-commitment reasons, or kid reasons, or whatever reasons, it will simply be your responsibility to find a replacement.

That’s all. No judgment, no questions asked. If you actually have a need to step down, please ask! If you only have a want, try observing the amount of work that goes into each Sunday and how much others have done and do every Sunday and beyond for us, and examine yourself. Can I say that? I guess I’m going with “email first, ask forgiveness later.”

Thank you for serving the bod of J.

Ok. There’ve been a handful of super-proud moments for me as a church planter. This is definitely in the top 5. It might be #1. I literally got misty-eyed and jumped for joy when I read this email.

Note the conspicuous absence of a certain V-word in this gal’s email. Note the conspicuous presence of gloriously gospelicious words and phrases like “People of Jesus”, “bod of J”, “examine yourself”(!), “observe”, “others”.

To the degree that you, as a church planter, de-professionalize yourself, you de-volunteer the body of Christ. In fact, you re-empower the body to call one another to personal, active ownership in the kingdom endeavor for which you are all yoked together as co-laborers with God (1 Cor 3:9).

Never, never say “volunteer”. Retweet after me: Never, never say “volunteer”.

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One thought on “Never Say “Volunteer”

  1. Pingback: Get Your Church Plant to the Table – a guest post | Gardens Don't Launch

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