Sunday, September 14, 2008

VOLUNTEER OR UNPAID EMPLOYEE??

Yesterday I received a 8-1/2 x 11 manila envelope from Upscale Church where Wonderboy is still singing in the children's choir. Inside was a booklet entitled "Be Christ's Hands at 'Upscale Church'".

It listed approximately 80 volunteer opportunities, some of which include the formerly paid staff positions now empty after a large portion of the staff was fired due to inability to meet the monthly operating budget. 

All the "positions" were listed in this order: Job Description, Time Commitment and Skills Needed. 

Many of the "volunteer positions" listed require that an application be filled out and a background check be performed. (PS I forgot to add that a minimum of one year's membership in good standing is also a "job requirement" to volunteer)

Is this the upscale version of the emerging church? Yikes! is all I can say.

8 comments:

Songbird said...

Background checks are becoming very common for volunteer positions. I would congratulate the church for caring that much about the kids. There may also be pressure through whatever company provides liability insurance, whether it's denominational or otherwise.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Songbird,

I can understand the worry about the kids, on the one hand. What I find appalling is the continuing acceptance of abdication of personal responsibility that is pervading not only our society but also our churches as responsible business practice. Now the pastors no longer have to have any kind of oversight on their jobs in terms of supervision and knowing the members and who they are. All such responsibility is now laid at the door of a secular insurance company.

This is not a mega church here. This is a church of 1500 members with 3 full time and 2 part time pastors, a high school leader, a jr. high school leader, all highly paid staff . And they are not able to discern and manage volunteers without this, insurance or no insurance?

How many of Jesus' apostles would have failed a background check? How many of Paul's co-founders of the church? What happens when someone is truly re-formed and is called to serve at church, be Christ's hands as it were, and then those hands are tied and rejected because their past fails the background check?

This is not church, IMO. This is religious business. And I'll grant that there is a market for this. Though the market seems to be shrinking. Perhaps it's just a business risk when washing one's hands of personal responsibility on a corporate level.

And who vetted Jesus to be our Savior?

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

If they can't meet their budget, presumably because contributions have dropped, what makes them think people are going to give of their time?

Presbyterian Gal said...

Ruth

Probably the same answer would be given here that the elder gave when a member of the congregation asked how the increased pastor's salaries on the change of call congregational vote would be paid when the monthly expenses hadn't been met for over a year and a half:

"We have faith"

There is a point there. If you don't ask, you don't get. And the 2nd part of the 24 million building plan is now under construction. With bank loans in place, underwritten on pledges.

We'll see how it goes. Every time I've seen similar in the past in this church they get a 1% response.

Purechristianithink said...

We have not cut staff recently, but several of our lay leaders have suggested producing just such a "volunteer" list. Reasons--not necessarily in order of importance: With the economy tanking, there will be lots of people who cannot contribute financially in the way they would like to. So providing a list of other ways to contribute in a vital and necessary way to the life of the congregation would be a good thing. Also, in the burbs we are always struggling against the tendancy to view the church as a supplier of religious goods and services for which "members" pay with their financial contributions. Emphasizing volunteerism and hands on invovlement in making ministry happens is one way to do this.

Re: background checks. WE've gone back and forth about this. So far, we only require it for staff, not for volunteers. The pressure, when it shows up, comes almost entirely from PARENTS who see background checks required for parents wanting to volunteer in kids sports, schools, girl and boyscouts, etc. and wonder why the church is not being equally vigilant.

Re: the one year requirement--I'd say not necessary for many volunteer tasks, but a good idea for others. We have an unwritten by generally agreed to policy that newcomers aren't invited to serve in positions that involve financial oversight.

Purechristianithink said...

We have not cut staff recently, but several of our lay leaders have suggested producing just such a "volunteer" list. Reasons--not necessarily in order of importance: With the economy tanking, there will be lots of people who cannot contribute financially in the way they would like to. So providing a list of other ways to contribute in a vital and necessary way to the life of the congregation would be a good thing. Also, in the burbs we are always struggling against the tendancy to view the church as a supplier of religious goods and services for which "members" pay with their financial contributions. Emphasizing volunteerism and hands on invovlement in making ministry happens is one way to do this.

Re: background checks. WE've gone back and forth about this. So far, we only require it for staff, not for volunteers. The pressure, when it shows up, comes almost entirely from PARENTS who see background checks required for parents wanting to volunteer in kids sports, schools, girl and boyscouts, etc. and wonder why the church is not being equally vigilant.

Re: the one year requirement--I'd say not necessary for many volunteer tasks, but a good idea for others. We have an unwritten by generally agreed to policy that newcomers aren't invited to serve in positions that involve financial oversight.

Mary Beth said...

"Good luck to them" is all I can say.

Deb said...

I suspect the background check thing is to CYA. Because someone can look like the nicest person and abuse the hell out of a kid. For years.

As far as the "job" listings goes... I guess I remember something a little more subtle from my growing up years -- it was the "Every member canvass" to get you to write down how you were giving of your "time, talents and treasure."

And sometimes? I think the long list of vacant spots says, "eh. We don't think that this is really that necessary either." so you drop a ministry because of lack of interest and do the things which count.

d