Soliciting Thoughts on Incentivizing Volunteer Work in the Church

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B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Morning PB Friends,

What are your thoughts on churches incentivizing volunteer work by paying people to perform it? I have in mind musicians, nursery workers, people who make coffee, volunteers that teach at VBS, Sunday school teachers, church van drivers...essentially any volunteer role that supports the operations of the church.

I've been thinking about church budgets and PPP loans a lot lately, which is what prompted the question.

Thoughts?
 

Jonathco

Puritan Board Freshman
This is an interesting question and undoubtedly one that will have strong opinions on both sides.

The challenge is that by paying "volunteers", it negates it being an act of serving the body altogether. Yes, churches typically have full time pastors/elders who are paid by the church, but this is because the church desires to remove the burden to provide financially from them, so that the pastor or elder can commit their time to serving in a full time or significant capacity. Monetizing "volunteering" seems like it would reveal a deeper problem within the congregation, where the body is only willing to serve if there is money to be made. Just my initial thoughts, but wouldn't this be indicative of a heart issue that needs to be addressed within that body?

A few verses that come to mind:

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
Matthew 6:24 ESV

"Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
It depends on the specific situation, but in general the American church has become weaker as volunteerism has given way to paid work.

If the work is of a skill level that you need a specialist doing it, and if it is burdensome enough that the person would struggle to do it and still provide for their family, then offering payment is a good option. Also, sometimes the nature of the work requires the kind of oversight in which an employer-employee relationship is helpful (there's an added level of responsibility/duty when you are getting paid). But overall, we have healthier churches with more commitment to each other and less of a consumer mindset when members volunteer to clean, send mailings, help with the service, staff the nursery, etc. And don't even get me started on paid Sunday school teachers—don't do it!
 

mgkortus

Puritan Board Freshman
I believe one of the main ways to motivate volunteer service would be through the preaching. There are a great number of Scriptural passages that would be appropriate in this connection. Recently I preached on "Israel's Willing Heart to Give and Serve" from Exodus 35:4—36:7. With a view to building the tabernacle, the people gave financial/material gifts. In addition, this passage indicates that it was more than Bezaleel and Aholiab who constructed the temple. Others who were able also contributed to the work. And notably the people did this with willing hearts.

Other passages that come to mind: Jesus washing the disciples' feet and calling them to follow his example. Jesus' word that he came not to be served, but to serve.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I think we should offer an indulgence for works of charity and mercy, also for pilgrimages, and for the viewing of the relics of dead saints to stir up our hearts to piety, and these indulgences can take time off our temporal punishments for sin in purgatory. Through the sale of these certificates we can then build a great basilica to the glory of God.
 

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
Out of what I believe is a sense of guilt, our elders disburse a consideration, by which I mean an amount so tiny it's the drop of a bucket, to certain volunteers: the piano player, the translator, one or two others. It's a nice gesture, but by no means is it the hire of which the laborer is worthy--they are still volunteering, and in some cases giving up time and potential income to do so.
We who volunteer in such fashion never asked for any compensation, and would continue our duties with joy if the supply dried up, since the money is not enough to persuade any to begin the work in the first place.
They also pay one of the church ladies to come and clean--more than the other volunteers, but not enough for her to count it income. That rose out of seeing what it would cost to hire a professional cleaning company to keep the place tidy. Suffice it to say the building will never be all the way clean.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for the responses. In my opinion the only people who should be receiving financial compensation (a salary) from the church is the pastor(s). I know for many of us our churches are small and the tithes/offerings hardly cover a good wage for a faithful pastor, but perhaps others of us are in or have been part of mid to large size congregations in the past where the church budget is divied up all sorts of ways to all sorts of people. I've been in churches that span the size-spectrum and the budget allocations have consistently been like this.

As an observation, which might not be accurate for you but is for me, I think the larger the church the easier it is to fall into a sort of perfectionism where expectations are that everything that is done should be done by a professional. The church no longer solicits volunteers to mow the grass instead a landscaping company is paid to do it. The church no longer has an amateur pianist fumbling through the hymns instead someone with a degree in music ministry is brought in. The church no longer struggles to get parents to watch their own kids in the nursery or teach their own kids in Sunday School instead they hire teachers and diaper changers to do those things instead. Nobody volunteers to make a pot of coffee, so let's hire a part-time barista instead. The list could go on.

In bringing these thoughts around to the topic of PPP money and churches that took hundreds of thousands and in some cases several million dollars...I wonder how many wouldn't have applied for the loan had they only operated on an army of volunteers instead? Obviously every church is different, but it's been a thought I've had. I've heard some (not here) respond "the church provides the primary source of income for these good people"...this may be indeed true, but should it be the case? I think the church in America has developed a corporation/business mentality for how it does ministry, which is why so many saw no problem with taking PPP money. I know it's more complicated than this, but still...
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
I would agree we shouldn’t be paying money to “volunteers”, but I might suggest we offer better appreciation (if it’s lacking) for various members.

For example, I think the nursery workers who spend hours watching other people's children and missing service can often go unnoticed. So I and my wife always go out of our way to express our appreciation to them and have even considered offering small gifts (maybe gift cards to a restaurant) as small tokens of appreciation.
 

Von

Puritan Board Sophomore
I would rather support a fine-system for people who misuse the regular volunteers in church.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
At what point should a church ask a "stranger within your gates" to work on the sabbath? We have a scriptural basis to support our pastor, but who else is reasonable to have as "paid help" on Sunday?

In the OPC, we vow to support the work and worship of our local congregation. That's what we're to do: use our capabilities for the good of the body.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
First, I'll fully agree with @bookslover - if they are getting paid, they aren't volunteers.

But in these days of attacks on Christians in the US, is a church better off hiring off duty police officers or relying on armed members with varying levels of training? Is it better stewardship to have a paid staff member in charge of expensive audio and video equipment or random volunteers? What about a mulit-million dollar organ?
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
Is it better stewardship to have a paid staff member in charge of expensive audio and video equipment or random volunteers? What about a mulit-million dollar organ?

There is a premise in there somewhere that might be questioned. ;)

A personal anecdote: I was a hired church organist years ago when I was a pagan. I ran with other organists who mostly weren't believers. Our jobs were to set the mood, lead the signing, and show off on the postlude. We routinely mocked the sermons and congregants.

I say this with great shame, but I did once hear a sermon that kept me awake on and off for more than a decade before God seized me as his.

Even though I still play the organ recreationally, as long as I have some influence, I'd not have one in our church.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
I did once hear a sermon that kept me awake on and off for more than a decade before God seized me as his.

See, you make a very good case for hiring pagans to play and sing in the services. It may be the way ordained to bring certain of the elect into the visible church.
 

VictorBravo

Administrator
Staff member
See, you make a very good case for hiring pagans to play and sing in the services. It may be the way ordained to bring certain of the elect into the visible church.

I don't want to be smug, but after I posted I was pretty sure you'd say something like that! LOL.
 
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