“That Guy is My Hero.”
A few weeks ago, one of our longest-tenured Guest Services volunteers retired. Hung up his parking vest. Turned in his walkie-talkie. And stepped away from a ministry he’s loved and thrived in for well over a dozen years.
I’m changing his name to “Bob” in this post because (a) he’s not a fan of public recognition, and (b) this story – though specific to him – represents the impact that so many of our volunteers have on our guests.
Bob’s Campus Director and I took him out for an appreciation lunch. (I told him that an eight dollar barbecue plate was the best investment anyone has ever made in exchange for his duration of service.) And during that lunch, we asked him about the highs and lows of his ministry. We had to prod him on the “highs,” because Bob is a guy who doesn’t want to stand in the spotlight. But he finally told us a story which I thought was worthy of sharing with you. I won’t attempt to give a play-by-play because I can guarantee I’m not remembering all the details correctly because #MiddleAge).
Bob was in a setting where a couple of ladies were present who attend our church. And while he didn’t know them, he recognized them. And they recognized him. One of them looked at the other and – within earshot of Bob – said, “That guy is my hero.”
The other lady looked at her quizzically and asked her to explain. She said, “He is always ready with a smile and helps me get where I need to go.”
This guest articulated a simple yet vital aspect of our volunteer base: volunteers don’t need to perform Herculean feats. They just need to be present.
Bob had become a parking specialist over the years. He focused on one team, served at a consistent time, and stood in a regular spot. Because of that, his is a face that hundreds of our church members recognize, even though they may not know him by name. At a sprawling campus of a rapidly-growing church, he served as a predictable presence who brought a subconscious sense of comfort to our regular attendees.
I’ve long said that our servant leaders are not just volunteers. They are saints of God equipped by God to serve the people of God. They are on the front lines, where they often make a first and lasting impact that exceeds even that of our paid staff. Sometimes they are the make-or-break catalyst who determines whether someone feels connected to the church or turned off by the church.
They make an impact that can stretch into eternity.
By the way, lest you think that Bob’s retirement from the parking team means retirement from all forms of ministry, let me set the record straight. He’s just turning in his orange vest, not walking away from the mandate to serve. He and his wife are assessing where they might best serve together in the next chapter of ministry. And wherever that is, I can assure you…he’ll still be somebody’s hero.