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Q. Is “Volunteers” A Good Term For Non-Paid Workers?

I’m uncomfortable with this word because it is not used in the Bible in relation to ministry. What are your thoughts on this?

Answer

Dear *****,

I’m not sure how we would describe the ministry of Paul, based on texts like Acts 18:1-5; 20:33-35; 1 Thessalonians 2:9; and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10. The fact was that Paul often (perhaps most often) supported himself and others in the church, at some points in time, but then at other times devoted himself fully to ministry when gifts came in which allowed him to do so (Acts 18:5; Philippians 4:14-16).

When we find Paul speaking of the “work of ministry” in Ephesians 4:12 (and other related texts, such as those dealing with church life and spiritual gifts) you don’t see any such distinction made.

I guess I would have to take note of 1 Timothy 5:17-18, where there seems to be a distinction made between those who labor in ministry (part-time?) and those who “work hard” at it.

I would agree with you that any term which is used in a way that appears to regard “volunteers” as second-class workers would be wrong.

Having said this, there does need to be some way of legally distinguishing non-paid workers (volunteers) from salaried workers (staff). My view, based on Ephesians 4, is that “staff” should not be paid to do “the work of ministry” for the church, but rather they are to encourage and support those in the church body to do this ministry.

Blessings,

Bob Deffinbaugh

Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

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