Difference between church employee and volunteer, Part 2

Difference between church employee and volunteer, Part 2

See Part 1.

Most churches are blessed to have a flock of volunteers. In our smaller churches, however, the volunteers don’t always match up with the needs of the church.

For example, a church might have 10 or 15 willing to work in the nursery during worship time, but there are no kids for the nursery. Ask these same individuals to spend 15-30 minutes after worship to count the offering instead, and none has the time or inclination. In the meantime, the counting team of two, that’s been faithfully counting for the past five years or more, has no relief and is close to burning out.

There is an imbalance here.

Just as employees need written job descriptions, so do church volunteers. Without such descriptions, churches frequently find it difficult to recruit volunteers because perceptions of the work are incorrect. And that’s what leads churches to want to provide “tokens of appreciation” to their volunteers in the form of cash or cash equivalents as an “incentive.” It also turns those volunteers into employees ... something the church probably never intended.

The way I explained it recently was that when people perform certain duties around the church, they are either volunteers, employees or contractors. It’s actually easy to distinguish the three: volunteers work with no expectation of being paid; employees are dependent on their employer for their compensation and the employer sets the working conditions; contractors are in business for themselves — they provide services that are not ordinarily the same or related to the business of the entity which has engaged their labor; they choose the best method and materials to perform the work they’ve been hired to complete.

A Christian camp wanted to exchange living quarters valued at $1,800/month as full compensation to a maintenance worker required to live there. But state law limits the “credit” against compensation for such accommodations to just under $600 per month for a single person. Paying less than minimum wage, they would, essentially, be employing a slave ... and America outlawed slavery 150 years ago.

Token payments to worship band members are the same kind of thing — they are not independent contractors.

Part of the challenge is that too many churches fail to adopt a Policies & Procedures Manual and an Employee Handbook. With more than 100 mandatory state and federal policies applicable to employees, you begin to see and appreciate the value of volunteers. You may even discover that labor violations are being committed inadvertently with employees.


CSBC has a solution for this: the Employee Handbook Builder. For just $200 per year, the church can have a fully compliant personnel manual that can easily be expanded into a complete Policies & Procedures Manual, with clearly written volunteer position descriptions, distributable electronically to both employees and volunteers. Electronic acknowledgments provide documentation that each has received the Manual.

For more information about the Employee Handbook Builder, call me at 559-256-0858, or visit http//handbookbuilder.blr.com/csbc to see a demo of the program.

This Convention serves our culturally diverse congregations as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.