Any time I want to feel really lousy about my [husband skills / parenting skills / boss skills], I flip over to Ephesians 5 & 6. In true Pauline fashion, the apostle uses those two chapters to chip away at my thick skull and drive some sense into my grey matter.
My first memory of Ephesians 6:4 was not the cleaned up Americanized translation, but the King Jimmy version, which states “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath…”
Provoke not your children to wrath. That’s a fun mental image, isn’t it? I always imagined a dad with a sharp stick, poking his kids over and over until they went berserk and started doing their best Tasmanian Devil impersonation all over the living room.
But now that I’ve been a dad for nigh unto 19 years, that verse comes into clearer focus with each passing day. I provoke my children to wrath when I lay burdens on their shoulders they were never meant to bear. I provoke them to wrath when my approval is a moving target, daring them to guess what will make me happy today. I provoke them to wrath when they get a ton of discipline but no praise along the way.
Provoked children feel driven, not challenged. Burdened, not blessed. Exasperated, not encouraged.
In ministry, we can provoke our volunteers to wrath the exact same way. Want to see a volunteer go Tasmanian Devil? Give them responsibility with no authority. Toss ’em in a volunteer spot with no clear expectation of the win. Let them serve week after week, month after month, with nary a thank you involved. Refuse to provide them with the resources they need to do their job. Prevent them from connecting their task to the overall mission of the church.
Pastors and ministry leaders, we have a divine responsibility to shepherd our people well. Part of that shepherding means that we’ll serve those who are serving others. We owe it to our volunteers to make sure they feel loved, led, and cared for. We owe it to them to provide clear expectations and a clear path to get there. We owe it to them to show them our gratitude and our thankfulness for their service.
How have you provoked your volunteers to wrath?