Expiration dates are on all sorts of things and for good reasons. We can find them on loaves of bread, gallons of milk, and egg cartons. Expiration dates are on our driver’s licenses, professional certifications, and even the President of the United States. These dates make sure things stay fresh, maximize effectiveness, and give us an opportunity to evaluate the need for change. And these are great reasons to put expiration dates on volunteer positions in the church.
Sometimes we put someone in a position and leave them there until they are used up. When volunteers are excited about doing good work for God, they begin like a freshly struck match. Their flame and energy are intense. Too often, though, we leave them burning in one spot for so long that their flame can sputter and die. Expiration dates can protect us from burning out volunteers.
Rotating fresh people into positions can achieve maximum effectiveness. Baseball coaches know how many pitches their pitchers can throw before they start getting tired. They have a whole crew of pitchers that they rotate in to keep them fresh and effective. Rotating volunteers in the church setting is just as important. It keeps the ideas fresh and the energy level high.
Rotating volunteers can also keep programs from getting stuck in ruts. In baseball, there are some situations when a left handed pitcher can be more effective than a right handed pitcher. The same is true in church work. Sometimes we need to change things to achieve our mission. Establishing a culture of rotating volunteers helps the church to be more prepared when changes become necessary.
Expiration dates are a form of checks and balances. An approaching expiration date is a wonderful opportunity to evaluate and to redirect. Every four years, we have the opportunity to evaluate the needs of our country as we decide who should be the President of the United States. When volunteers stay in one position too long, it becomes difficult to make necessary changes.
We tend to resist expiration dates because it is easier to let someone stay in one spot than it is to find and train a replacement. But it is well worth the effort. As leaders in the church, it is our duty to help people find meaningful ways to serve. And using expiration dates to allow more people to rotate into places of service gives the church community a broad expression of faith.