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Church Volunteers: An Oxymoron

Why I've stopped using the word 'volunteer' to describe those who serve.

If you've even spent time at a local branch of the Red Cross, tutored a child at a local elementary school, pounded nails at a Habitat For Humanity build, or picked up trash at a local nature preserve, you've probably done so as a volunteer. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 26.8 percent of the population volunteered in their communities at least once between September 2008 and September 2009. The percentage ticked upward from previous years. Even with the economic recession, the group Volunteering in America reports, 2009 saw the biggest increase in the number of volunteers since 2003. A majority of volunteers served as religious organizations.

But does the language of volunteerism apply to the church?

I recently sat through weeks of church staff meetings. The primary item on the agenda was crafting a congregational organizational chart. Our church has grown rapidly in recent years, and as a result, klutzy collisions between ministry heads ...

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