Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Being collared (2) - not doing anything!

One of the interesting, and in my experience quite recent, phenomena encountered of late with many of those who are 'called' is called 'not doing anything' [NDA]

The scene for this challenging behaviour is set when those who are collared are still doing stuff as laity. They're not even potential ordinands or engaged in Lay ministry (although I have detected the early signs of this disease in some who are Lay ministers but assume this is merely an abberation) for the early signs are associated with anyone who find themselves on a rota. The symptoms are subtle at first and it's only when trends appear that diagnosis can be made and yet, ironically, by that time the grip is so tight that an attempted cure can be fatal.

Let's take as our example 'Bob' - a really nice chap who attends almost every week and because he's there he volunteers to do the tea and coffee. He enjoys it and the approbation the role brings from others and so he volunteers for the rota. Every week he's in church and whenever his team are making the drinks he's there 'doing the stuff'. 'What a man, what superb coffee and look at the tea, you can't see the bottom of the cup,' the congregation cry - and all is well.

But then the spores of NDA blow in and begin to take effect and an invitation to a Balinese nose flute contest beckons and since they're not doing anything, Bob pop off for the weekend. The week after Bob is dutifully back behind the counter serving a cornucopia of liquid delights and all is well. Well, as well and well can be because Bob has realised that when he has 'nothing to do' it's fair game to be somewhere else as his absence has no consequence for those still there (drinks are served by someone else) and he's away doing whatever it is that's bringing him joy at that time. 'After all, it's just a little 'me time' and that's important isn't it - you don't want to see me burn out do you,' thinks Bob to himself.

Soon Bob finds himself checking the rotas to see when he has to be there rather than find out when he might be able to take some time away and the process is complete. Now infected Bob can continue to do what he does (when he has to) and as the condition continues undetected he might eventually find himself taking on other roles, perhaps even becoming a lay minister or ordained even. But the symptoms continue - the need to not be present when you're not on the rota and NDA becomes more acute and fuelled by the fact that if you don't 'need' to be at work. . .

Well you know what I mean - after all, who goes in to work on a Saturday if they don't have to? Same applies when the job is church - doesn't it?

And if you're ordained and you're not doing anything, after all you were on the rota in the morning, it's fair game that you take the evening off. Yeah, I know it's Sunday but you're NDA so why would you go?

'What's that Sweep? Sooty says that being a Christian he thought you'd want to be in a church building engaged in worship because that's where you'd want to be - not because it's your job!'

What a silly Sweep - you don't need to go to church - you're not doing anything!

Do you?

As a postscript I was thinking back to a time when I was doing so much in church that I realised that I was no longer living with Christ but was clocking on and working with Him and then when I clocked off again we parted company until tomorrow. When I had to be at work with Him.

I'm not advocating that those who do stuff in church need to be there all the time - but appealing to those who might have forgotten that if we don't want to be there and only go when we have to do stuff - we might need to step back and get perspectives and relationships sorted ;-)


Soup D said...

This question was addressed when I was doing Lay Ministry training as the difference between volunteer and vocation. A volunteer is one who picks and chooses when and where to give their time. A vocation is a sense of calling and commitment which puts aside personal desire in place of what God wants.
The church has too many volunteers and not enough vocation!

UKViewer said...

Sometimes it's a good thing to say NO. As I have on occasion, when doing more would impact on my family life and other things that I need to do.

Doing church stuff can take over your life, becoming a chore rather than a service you give freely because you understand that service is part of the call on us. When doing church stuff becomes 'you' than that's a problem for you, for your family, and ultimately, for your church - it stops you being flexible, stops you sharing service with others, discourages others from coming forward and allows complacency to infect those who see everything being done, so they needn't bother.

The people in church who regard their volunteering as ownership are a problem for Vicars and a problem for the rest of the parishioners who might intrude into their space? I've know people to become offended, take umbrage of someone else doing their stuff and the bad feeling that can emanate from that.

I've know letters of complaint on trivial things to the Bishop or Arch Deacon when someone who feels that they're the centre of attention, feeling deprived of their role. Not by them personally, but from their supporters. It's divisive and leads to broken relationships and congregations, unless gripped firmly, but pastorally at the outset.

This is where the incumbent and PCC need to be a team and not divided. Where collaborative ministry and team building is inclusive, but with boundaries and where everyone is given the opportunity to serve.

Being sensitive to people's feelings isn't the same as being subjected to emotional blackmail through tears or awkward silences or even avoidance.

There's something in the DNA of some churches that allows grievances to fester - we all try to be nice to each other, and don't face the difficult bits of someone who's past their ministry sell by date and we lack the moral courage to say - time to take a step back.

Having been in these situations myself, I know that not taking sides is important, but sitting on the fence is also difficult. I've been a someone who's been able to listen impartially and try to help others to see that things have to change and develop. That others deserve a chance as well.

In my case, I was eventually driven to move to a church in another diocese because the diocese that I was with, completely blocked any chance of further ministry development consistently after I came back from back with a NO. So the issue can also be external to the parish, not just within it.

Now, I'm on schedule to train for LLM in September - having made the change, God has been kind as have the new people I'm loving being with.

UKViewer said...

That should have been back from BAP. Darn autocorrect :)

Vic Van Den Bergh said...

Aha volunteering and vocation: There's the rub!

UKV - agree about saying 'No' at times (think my last comments support that) and ownership rather than imposed is an important issue. Worry comes when ministry of any kind is a job innit?

Congrats on LLM training by the way