DEAR MISS MANNERS: I started attending a new church recently, and everything was wonderful. After a couple of visits, Pastor Kyle announced that the church was in dire need of volunteers to work the holiday snow-cone booth. So, right after church, I was the first to sign up. I even sent a follow-up email.
On the day of the event, I showed up early, ready to volunteer. Pastor Kyle told me that there were already enough people working the booth. Then he handed me some tracts that I could go pass out.
I tried to be a good sport and hand out the tracts, but I felt terrible and went home early. Pastor Kyle sent me a text last week inviting my husband and me to a cookout, and thanking me for helping out.
What should I have done when I showed up at the booth, and how should I respond to his text?
GENTLE READER: Volunteering is an important, but somewhat misunderstood, endeavor. The volunteer is something more than a customer (in your case, a parishioner) and something less than an employee.
Pastor Kyle acknowledged this in announcing the nature of the work in advance, so that parishioners would know what they were volunteering to do. But he presumably asked for volunteers because there was simply too much going on for the regular staff to handle everything.
What then, should he, and you, have done when the help needed changed? The answer is for Pastor Kyle to treat you more like a parishioner and for you to treat him more like a boss. He should have apologized for the change and asked if you were still willing to help. You might have smiled and cheerfully agreed. Miss Manners reminds you that a volunteer who increases, rather than decreases, the work for the staff does not generally earn the gratitude of a more selfless volunteer.