Bill and Linda expressed the desire of serving our church after attending for three months. We had become friends and I was excited for them. One of the church volunteer opportunities they wanted to fill was the Bible Study Group Overseer. Someone to shepherd over the different bible study groups. But there was a big problem.
The problem was they were not members and church policy said no non-members in volunteer leadership positions. I remember feeling anger when I found out. The real problem, if I may be so bold, is that "policy" missed the whole point of what it means to be a church volunteer.
This week, I received an email asking me a common question I've received from others;
"Do you think that a person has to be a member of the church in order to be a church audio volunteer?"
Regardless of your view on this, if it doesn't meet with pastoral support, you're going to be in trouble.
By the time you finish reading this article, if you haven't considered the issue, you'll have solidified your own thoughts on the matter. You'll also learn how to deal with the difficult situation when it arises.
Church audio volunteer – must they be a member?
My immediate answer to the BIG question is "no." No where do I read in scripture that one must formally agree to join the specific church body before Christ will use them.
Before further investigating the BIG question, you and I have to look at two other questions first;
- Why is the person not a member?
- What does it mean to be a volunteer in the church?
Not a member
A person, or family, who hasn't joined a church, has done so for one of several reasons;
- They're church-hoppers. Try this church for a few months. Try that church.
- They're new believers and therefore it's one step at a time.
- They want to get a feel for what the church really believes before they decide to join.
I'm sure other possibilities exist but for brevity, let's stick with these three majors. Additionally, the assumption here is that the "non-member" is a Christian.
Definition of a volunteer
According to Merriam-Webster, a volunteer is "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service." I hate the fact they defined the word using the verb-tense of the word, so I'll give their definition of voluntarily; "proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent."
The word volunteer is used only four times in scripture based on the NIV; Judges 5:9, 1 Chronicles 12:38, 2 Chronicles 17:16, and Nehemiah 11:2. Not a single instance refers to work within the church or on behalf of the church. This means we have to look at how scripture defines working for the church.
Romans 12:4-8 (New International Version)
"Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
1 Corinthians 12 (New International Version)
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And now I will show you the most excellent way."
Does a person have to be a member to be a church audio volunteer?
Again, no where do I read that one must formally agree to join a specific church body before Christ will use them. It irks me that anyone would use scripture as a pure excuse for not permitting someone to serve in a volunteer position. We are parts of the body of Christ. "Volunteering" at church isn't about volunteering…it's about serving Christ.
For this reason, I don't believe a person has to be a member of the church to serve as a church audio volunteer. The question shouldn't be, "now that you have joined the church, how will you serve?" The question the church should ask is "now that you're an involved member of the church, would you like to make it a formal commitment?"
I'd like to add that I'm not trying to be divisive, I'm stating my opinion and am more than willing to read your view as well – just add a comment below. We should always be learning from one another. My church pastor and I have debated different topics over the years and typically gain a new perspective from each other. Our goals aren't to argue with the other but to learn from each other – and we are respectful of each other. Comment below so I can learn from you.
Arguments against non-members
The biggest argument that you'll hear is simple. "If they can't commit to joining the church, how can the church commit to letting them take on such an intense volunteer position?" I'll paraphrase it like this…"how can we trust them?" Maybe that's a bit extreme, I'm not sure.
The role of church sound operator (males and females) does have a huge commitment factor. There is time involvement alone, lest I not forget to mention reliability and the knowledge required. I'm not saying a new member who has been coming to church for two weeks should be allowed to join. I'm saying a person who is committed to serving as part of the body of Christ should not be judged based on their formal commitment to a church.
Why positive is best
Regardless of whether or not your opinion agrees with mine, you should be positive in knowing you have thought about the issue. It's far better to know what you believe than to be asked and not have a response.
What you can do
We all want the support of the pastor, right?
Regardless of your person belief on the matter, you should know where your church policy stands relating to audio volunteers being non-members. You don't want to enlist a person only to later say "um, sorry but you have to join the church or I have to let you go." In the case of your church policy stating they must first join the church, you should feel free to ask why. I'm not saying you should debate the policy.
The day you find yourself in a position where a non-member wants to join the church audio team (and of course you have no reservations in their ability to tell a TRS plug from a hole in the ground), you need to ask them why they're not a member of the church. If they give a reason you believe is valid, you should consider going to the top. Consider going to the church pastor and explaining the situation. Find out if this person can be be an exception. I'll leave it up to you in deciding how hard to debate it.
There will come a time, if it hasn't happened already, when a non-member wants to join your audio team. They'll have the experience and qualifications to join. You'll need to know the church's policy on non-member "volunteers" in the audio booth. You'll have to decide if it's worth discussing with the pastor to make an exception. Ultimately, you might be in a situation where you have to say "I'd love to have you on my team but our church policy states that you have to be a member of the church."
I think this is the longest post on this site. It brings up church policy, theology, and leadership decisions. I'd love to read your comments on church volunteers. You can say that my view is all wrong. You might point out something I hadn't considered. I want to know what you think about it. Heck, you might be a pastor and have a different take on this – I want to know!
Looking for a better way of recruiting volunteers? Grab the volunteer recruitment forms.