Have you ever  just felt a lyric resonate with you. Maybe the band isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe the rest of the song doesn’t really do it for you. Maybe it isn’t in a style or genre you find particularly compelling. But the delivery of that one line is just un-explainable and perfect. 

That lyric for me is from the song This Year by The Mountain Goats.

For any of the rest of this to make any sense you’ll have to listen to the song, but the lyric is the chorus:

I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.

Profound, I know! But that’s kind of been the schedule I’ve been working the past couple of years. A little background.

Two years ago we were employed at our church preparing to take on the role of senior pastor who hoped to retire in a few years. But what the church could afford to pay two pastors wasn’t sufficient for our family of seven and so we mutually agreed with the church that I would work full-time at another job and serve the church in a lay capacity . So for the past two years, I’ve been working about 60 hours a week in my full-time gig as a home inspector and volunteering at the church 30-40 hours a month as worship leader, pulpit fill-in, youth group volunteer, and home-group leader, along with whatever misc service projects our church engages in.

I am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.

Are you beginning to see why that lyric resonated with me? At the beginning of this month the church brought me back on full-time and I’ve thought about the past two years a lot, and one of the questions that keeps surfacing is what is a reasonable expectation of a lay leader working a full-time job with a family?

Now, I’m not trying to quantify a time. That is obviously something that will be slightly different for each individual. Maybe a better question then becomes, how do we assure that the time we ask from our lay-people to dedicate to church.

A few things stand out to me:

  1. People’s time is valuable. People WANT TO volunteer and participate, so if they aren’t showing up to an event they either don’t see the value in what they are being asked to do, or simply don’t have the time to do it.
  2. People have to work in their strengths. People should not want to volunteer just to volunteer.  Don’t patronize them with just any job. Don’t recruit folks to a greeters ministry if they don’t have interest in welcoming folks and handing out bulletins.  That’s the definition of unproductive.
  3. Trust people with decision making power. I have seen, and experienced first-hand, overly protective ministry management. If you are asking for volunteers, vet them, then trust them to make good decisions. If you don’t, you’ll neuter their passion, and gut your team’s creative spirit.

While none of these are earth-shattering, I’m writing these thoughts now to remind myself in a year, when it’s my turn to be recruiting volunteers. Just in case I forget, it’s hard to work and I need to keep a reasonable idea of what to expect from my laity.