Staff Reflections – Volunteers

Staf Reflections from January, 2012:

This month, in preparation for this staff report, we took the opportunity to reflect on the presence of volunteers within the CCS community. 

First and foremost, we are enormously grateful for the generosity and support of the folks who serve this institution.  We are convinced that our volunteers share our passion for our mission, our educational approach, and our commitment to enhancing ministries of justice and compassion. 

  • Many volunteers function within our governance structure on Council, committees and working groups.  The number of tasks and duties these folk undertake are legion: from putting up new banisters outside the back door, to fretting over the details of a budget statement, from scrutinizing bylaws, to deciding the next Companions, from facilitating crucial meetings, to offering a big picture sense of vision.
  • Many volunteers work directly alongside students in roles as learning facilitators, vocational mentors, and local committees.  These volunteers participate in the field placement settings and engage the students with poignant questions, theological reflection, social analysis and thoughtful evaluation. 
  • Several volunteers agree to take on special tasks for us and enable us to continue in our designated staff roles: newsletter editor, archives consultant, occasional office relief.

We, as staff, are very appreciative of the time and energy that these volunteers share.  In a time of reduced staff realities, we are acutely aware that the cooperation and collaboration with volunteers is essential to the well being of the organization.

From the time of recruitment to the moment of appreciation at the end of a term of office or service, we hope that the time spent as a CCS volunteer is meaningful and fulfilling.  We know and expect that this is true for most of our volunteers.  Now and again, frustrations will arise: the work does not match the volunteer’s gifts or interests, personal matters arise such that making the desired contribution becomes impossible, the expectations are too high or the task unclear.  We cannot claim that our involvement in efforts to orient, train, and support volunteers are done perfectly.  We try but there are human limitations.  Where we as staff have been inadvertently a part of inattentive, unresponsive or mis-communicative behaviour, we offer our apologies.

The quality of our volunteers is extraordinary.  However, we did some wondering about the quantity of volunteers in our small organization.  The number of people, involved in preparing students for ministry and keeping this organization stable and afloat, is very high.  On one hand, this is exciting; people are involved, engaged, and participating.  On the other hand, this might be an over extension of human resources.  In many volunteer organizations, the trend is to limit and down-size governance structure.  Many other theological programs do not demand as much relational networking from the student.  We feel these are matters to continue to monitor and consider as the Planning and Governance committee does its work, and in the on-going work of program review.

The roles of volunteers and staff differ.  Many of the volunteer positions incorporate demanding hands-on work; some of it is direct involvement with producing a brochure, making nominations phone calls, or writing a student review.  Other volunteer positions are more blue sky thinking: policy-shaping, reflecting biblically with a student, remodeling a recruitment strategy, or crafting mission statements.  As staff members, we are mandated with the responsibility and blessing of most of the on-going day-to-day administration and programing of CCS.  It can be confusing to figure out how to best support and empower volunteers.  A whole range of assumptions and hopes are present when working with volunteers: some committees need animation; some individuals expect administrative support; some mentors need warmth and care; some facilitators need to be challenged; some situations call for staff follow through and implementation.  We do our best to bring faithful discernment in figuring out these matters.  It is our intention to do this in relationship, and out of our shared commitment to CCS.