If one does not have continual time to volunteer in and/or be active in church functions, is he or she no longer needed at church? And therefore, with regard to those within the church who make such decisions about others’ involvement, do they truly think before they act and/or put themselves in the others’ shoes? These are the questions that I will seek to answer in the present post, based on certain experiences I have had at my church and within my faith, in general.
Throughout my life and within my faith, regardless of the church of which I have been a member, I have noticed that if one is not continually available to help, volunteer, assist, and/or otherwise minister within the church, he or she is not needed, or at least, does not appear to be as valued in the church as those who do. Additionally, there appears to be a lack of consistency between people, philosophies, and perspectives in relation to value, importance, and need regarding members who volunteer and/or who are simply involved in various church activities. All it takes is for one person to be unappreciative, disrespectful, and/or offensive, and it casts a poor reflection on the whole group. This causes the church to potentially lose people and/or for some members to take their time and talents elsewhere.
Within the past five years, there have been four particular activities that I have been involved in at my church at St. John Neumann in Lilburn, Georgia, as well as two activities that my son has been involved in there, within which there has been this inconsistency of value, understanding, and/or appreciation toward us. In describing several of those activities to follow, suffice it to say that this number of activities (6) is too many within which not to be valued or appreciated, to the point in two cases to be downright offended by others’ conduct.
While there are also many activities, volunteer efforts, and other church involvements in which we have been valued and appreciated, it was during those times that we also had much time and energy to invest in such activities. They were also activities and efforts in which we were agreeable and accepting of the experience we had. They were activities within which the leadership was good and the event was safe, proceeding well. In instances, however, where leadership has been questionable and/or the event biased in some way, having identified those situations to church leadership and positive change was not observed, these have also been experiences in which feedback appears to have been used as a reason to alienate and/or exclude.
The mission of many Christian-based churches often includes being open to and accepting of all people. This, however, appears to be true only if one continually has much time and/or money to invest in the church, and/or as long as there is no disagreement with anything that occurs within the church. As an approved volunteer with a clean background check, I take offense when I am treated like a criminal in coming to pick up my child from youth group, find the church doors to be locked, and prevented from entering by the group’s volunteer leaders, as one example. While this, in fact, may be a safety measure, it can also be viewed that the leadership has something to hide. When I am unable to have access to my child, no less in a completely voluntary-type setting, and am treated as being guilty before being innocent, this is a major concern. The church has itself to blame, in covering up countless abuses of children by religious, and must not treat concerned parents as criminals.
Some time ago, at a church potluck dinner, I was admonished by two senior citizens (a man and a woman) for filling an extra plate to take home to my family. The woman stated that I should leave more food for others, and I explained to her my financial need. The man stated to me that I basically was taking too much chicken. In response to him, I was so offended that I said nothing. Why is it that people are unable to put themselves in another’s shoes, even in one’s own church?! Why is it that people see a Caucasian woman who reasonably takes care of herself and has a positive attitude, but they cannot perceive need? Would they enjoy living at or below poverty level for many years due to various hardships? Why is it that Caucasian single mothers are so often overlooked, blamed, disrespected, and offended by others? This is something that has often been discouraging to experience.
Now that my schedule has changed and I have had good work opportunities, it appears that the time and efforts of both my son and I are no longer needed by the church. This is another reason that I state that the church only appears to need those volunteers who continually have time available to minister and assist. When the call went out for volunteers to assist with vacation Bible school, I offered a day when my son and I could help, and was turned down. In the past, when we were both available to assist during an entire week, then it was fine. Now that we have limited availability, we are not needed, to the point of our time and efforts being rejected.
In having lectored for a few years, I was scheduled to read once in a six month time period. On that one day that I read, I took the day off to do so, reflecting the importance of the ministry to me…that I would sacrifice a day’s pay just to read at church! Then, on the one other day that I was available to read, on a day off from work, in a period of three months, I was not scheduled to do so. Others in the church, regardless of availability, often read two or three times in a three month period, yet being schedule once in six months truly shows me that I am not needed, my schedule cannot be accommodated, and people are unable to walk in my shoes. Once I complained, efforts were made to attempt to accommodate me, however it did not appear to be something that would ultimately work out. Thus, I do give the particular minister credit for his efforts as that is more than anyone else has done.
So, in answer to my questions originally posed, it seems that only a certain few people are able to think before they act in church and those certain few people are able to walk in others’ shoes, however it does appear that church members are no longer needed to assist, minister, and/or be involved in church activities and functions if they do not have continual time available to do so. It is much easier for people to pass judgment on others rather than ask, “What can I do for you?,” or “What can I do to make this better for you?”
Perhaps there are some churches that have so many volunteers that they actually do not need everyone and can turn people away, however it is generally my experience that when people are not needed, valued, treated as important, and turned away, that they take their time and talents elsewhere. That is why I left the previous church at which I was a member, and the one prior to that. And, while I keep in mind the many positive aspects of my church, there are also a great many things that can be improved, these being a few examples. Everyone needs to be treated with value, respect, and importance, and people must be able to walk in another’s shoes. In absence of that, some sheep may seek a different place to graze.