“I’m just a volunteer.” You may use this phrase in a number of different contexts, but in every single instance, the word ‘just’ should be stricken from the sentence. In fact, the consequences of uttering the word ‘just’ when used before the word ‘volunteer’, is actually hurting our church communities.
First, it supports an unhealthy model of staff dependency. After all, many churches expect the program staff to be the primary “doers” of the ministry since they are the ones being paid. These churches are missing a key to a thriving ministry: a program staff person whose primary responsibilities are to equip, empower, and encourage volunteers.
It also gives the volunteer an easy out. If a volunteer has the perspective that he or she is just a volunteer, one may be less inclined to live into his or her role by not fulfilling obligations. If given the chance to show up for a church meeting or enjoy the first sunny, 75-degree day in the spring, such people could very well blow off their church commitment. After all, they’re just volunteers.
April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, and I was looking up images to use for this post. I found many phrases that boasted, “Volunteers Make a Difference.” I don’t believe that. In actuality, volunteers make THE difference. They aren’t “just” anything. They are almost EVERYTHING. So next time, think twice about referring to yourself or someone else as “just a volunteer.”
What are some cultural dynamics you think contribute to the ‘just’ mentality? And what can we do about it?