Lady Pastor: Let the spirit guide your volunteer experience

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A special time of the congregational year has arrived. Volunteer recruitment is in full swing. A new season of Sunday school, upper-elementary programs, confirmation, and youth group is just around the corner.

These programs thrive through the dedication of volunteers. It's possible you'll be recruited to be an educational leader within your church. Perhaps it's something you've already been considering.

Before you say "yes" or "no," I have some thoughts for you to ponder. These contemplations are directed toward two groups: church volunteer recruiters and prospective leaders.

To volunteer recruiters: Thank you for your willingness to invite people into the roles of teacher, helper and leader. Maybe you are a full- or part-time staff person at your church. Perhaps you are a volunteer, ready and willing to invite more people on board.

When I first became a pastor, I naively thought putting a sign-up sheet labeled "Please sign here to become a Confirmation Small Group Leader" would be enough.


I was wrong. That approach is not enough. It works for a few, but most people need to know they are more than a handwritten name on a line. Successful volunteer recruitment is personal and individual. It's about matching up a person's real gifts and interests with opportunities to serve and lead.

As recruiters, we are doing much more than making phone calls and personal visits. We are providing opportunities for people to engage in the educational ministries of our congregations.

If people say yes, that's wonderful. If people say no, that's 100 percent okay. Remember, the Holy Spirit is in the midst of this whole process. For some people, it might not be the right time or the right opportunity. No problem. Don't fret. Move forward.

When the start of classes draws near and spots remain to be filled, avoid going into "recruitment desperation mode." (I've been there. It's not pretty.) Making people feel guilty or ashamed for not helping isn't a healthy approach. Begging isn't very effective either. Be patient, trust God and everything will eventually fall into place.

Center your recruitment approach in encouragement, grace and appreciation. Share your own stories of how serving as a teacher has been meaningful.

Your willingness to help in this way is a gift to the congregation you serve. Thank you.

To prospective teachers/educational leaders: Pray and listen. There are opportunities to lead and serve within the educational ministries of your church. I invite you to do two things. Pray about it. And then listen.

Pray for guidance about whether a particular opportunity is a good match for your gifts and interests. Then listen. Listen for God's guidance. Listen to your own heart and feelings. Listen to what other people say about their own experiences of serving.


If you have questions, ask them. If you feel insecure about a lack of experience with the Bible or leading a group, please rest assured that you're not alone. The great thing about teaching is that it affords endless opportunities to learn!

Also, it's okay if you say no. It's really okay. I mean it. Please don't feel bad. You are the only one who truly knows your life, interests, family commitments and schedule. Be comfortable and at peace with your decision, whatever it may be: Yes, no, or let me pray about it.

What a gift it is that we all have opportunities to teach and to learn throughout our whole lives. Maybe this year will be a time for to lead an exuberant group of seventh-graders. Perhaps this year God is inviting you to step back from leading and instead reserve time to renew your spirit.

The months ahead will be filled with innumerable possibilities. Pray and listen.

The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson, a Lutheran pastor in Stewartville. Visit her blog at:

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