When it Comes to Your Volunteers, Assume the Best
As far as coaching moments go, it wasn’t my best day.
I was hanging out on a Sunday morning close to the main entrance of the building, observing our first time guest process. You know, the kind of thing volunteers love: nosy, overbearing pastors who try to make their lives better. More difficult. Whatever.
It didn’t take me long to spot a problem. One of our guys in the parking lot intercepted a couple getting out of their car. While I couldn’t hear the conversation, I was watching it take place from a few dozen feet away. There were the standard introductions, handshakes, gestures towards the front door. It was a flawless execution, save for one thing: he didn’t take them by the first time guest tent.
Ouch. Major fail.
I waited for him to walk them inside and then walk back out, confident in my ability to call out the best in this wayward soul and highlight the error of his ways. As he passed, I stopped him. Told him what I observed. And reminded him that the goal is to get people to the tent.
He shifted his weight from one foot to another, and then patiently explained that they were an out of town couple, anxious to get inside and see a family member that they were visiting. He had indeed invited them to drop by the tent, but they declined, saying they’d be happy to do it after the service.
Again: Ouch. Major fail. Only this time, I realized the failure was mine.
But it gets worse. My wife, who was standing nearby and overheard the entire exchange, stepped over and pulled me to the side. In a way that only a loving spouse can do, she put a gentle hand on my arm and then graciously put me in my place. She pointed out that this particular volunteer had been faithfully serving for years, that he consistently adhered to our first time guest plan seamlessly, that he constantly got it right, and that if the couple chose not to stop by the tent, it wasn’t because he didn’t give his best effort. She then smiled again (just to make sure I knew she loved me), and walked away.
In case I haven’t mentioned it lately…ouch.
I don’t know about you, but if jumping to conclusions were an Olympic sport, I’d bring home the gold every four years. I can go from Point A to Point Z in four seconds flat: skipping logic, rationale, goodwill, and charity, and just going straight for the jugular of how you must be wrong because of course I’m always right.
A few years ago our pastor led us through a talk where he challenged us to assume that people around us are smart and have good intentions. While he meant it for our staff, I often fail to apply that to our volunteers. Repeat after me: your volunteers are smart and have good intentions. They work in high-stress jobs like yours. They pay a mortgage like yours. Their kids have problems like yours and their marriages have challenges like yours. And so, before you jump to high-and-mighty conclusions about how you’re smarter than they are, remember that the same Spirit that indwells you indwells them as well.
In case you’re wondering, I swallowed my pride that morning, sought out that volunteer, and sought his forgiveness. He was more gracious to me than I deserved, and all was well. But that morning’s encounter taught me a valuable lesson – one that I’m still painfully learning: get all of the facts before jumping to a conclusion. And even when you think you have the conclusion, ask lots of questions before you start demanding answers. Like me, you might just find out that you’re not as smart as you thought.
Are there some volunteers you need to start assuming the best about? Why not begin praying today for those opportunities this weekend?