You would not have to speak with many servants within the Christian church to find a member dissatisfied with the weight their service has placed upon their shoulders. Churches are notorious for taking everything a volunteer has to offer, wringing them dry, and then scrambling to find an equally gullible replacement when the previous servant could do no more. There isn’t anything malicious, per se, about this behaviour from the churches in question. Rather, it is simply the nature of the work: when one relies on volunteers, one often has a static or growing body of work with a small and potentially diminishing work force. Over time the workers the church has are required to carry a heavier burden than they are capable of.
When we were investigating a new church (Vineyard, by the way, which we have since joined), I was curious how they treated their volunteers. When people volunteer to help lead worship, or to work in the nursery, or to clean up, are they alone in their endeavour and subsequently worked to death? To find this out before we committed ourselves, I volunteered to cook for a Church Painting, where the outside of the building was being redone, to see how people treated and reacted to me.
I think this sort of introduction to a group is the most telling because it really lets one take a look at how they act. When a new person visits a church, it is easy to target them, to introduce oneself to them, and to invite them to small groups and social events. It is easy to make them feel the center of attention and valued. But when someone places themselves in the roll of a servant, in a corner or off to the side, how will the members treat them? Will they be taken for granted, or will they continue to be valued, included, and appreciated?
Thankfully I was able to find this out before we joined, and the results were quite pleasant. Everyone was complimentary of my cooking, people came by to see how I was and chat while I was at the grill, and other people volunteered to help set up, clean, and tear down the cooking area to my own service was equitable (if not minimal). The Vineyard has a strong and large group of servants, so one gets the sense they are serving alongside the church body, rather than simply for its sake. By way of another example, the worship team cycles regularly so no one person has to do it all the time, and there’s no pressure to always “be on.” Enough people volunteer that everyone gets a decent break.
Next time you want to find out how people will really treat you, serve them. You never know how someone will truly act towards you until they are placed in a position of power over you, and it is better to learn such a lesson before one commits.