When I was in my first year at secondary school we were all encouraged to participate in the school sports day at the end of the summer term. I had recently watched some athletics on the TV and had been inspired by the pole vault is so decided that I would do the pole vault. I was not daunted by the fact that I could hardly lift the pole nor by the even more daunting fact that I had never done pole vaulting before the competition. I took a chance.
“I’ve seen it on television,” I thought, “how hard can it be?”
In my naive imagination I decided that all I had to do was run as fast as I could down the runway, plant the pole in the ‘pocket’, keep running whilst allowing the pole to flex and then be catapulted high over the bar into the glory of first place.
On the appointed day I arrived at the pole vault venue to discover four other boys who had similar delusions about their inherent ability to do the pole vault. Talking with them I discovered that none of us had ever done it before but all of us assumed that it would be easy.
When it was my turn I picked up the pole and lifted it up in the manner I had seen on television. I staggered as fast as I could down the runway and managed to plant the end of the pole into the pocket. I carried on running, expecting the pole to flex, but instead came to a juddering halt as the pole steadfastly refused to bend. I was simply too small and scrawny to make any impact on the pole’s rigidity. Neither of my next 2 attempts was any more successful. I ended my pole vaulting career with a total height cleared of zero cm and 3 no jumps. My only consolation was that none of the other boys managed to pole vault properly either. The winner was the boy who planted the pole in the pocket and then instantly let go of the pole and hopped over the bar unaided as it was only about 1m high.
Reflecting now on my childish naivete it reminds me that often we are guilty in churches of expecting people simply to pick up ideas, new tasks, skills and so on without training them properly first. thankfully most of the time people are far more competent than I was at pole vaulting but why is it that we neglect to train volunteers?
I think part of the reason is that we do not want them to feel overloaded. Perhaps another reason is that we don’t want them to understand the full scope of the job too soon and be put off by it. Maybe we don’t want them to feel that we think they are not sufficiently competent. Sometimes it’s simply that we don’t get around to it because we’re too busy. Perhaps we try to justify it by believing that the Holy Spirit will give them all the gifts and talent that they need. The fallacy of the last justification is that we neglect that Jesus put the Apostles through a three-year training programme!
Perhaps people don’t ask training because of pride or they believe it is and spiritual to do so. If you are in a voluntary role in a church and realise that you are not as well prepared or equipped as you feel you could be there is nothing unspiritual about asking to be trained. There is nothing super spiritual about struggling on relying solely on intuition. If we are seeking to offer our best to God we need to accept that we will probably need help to be the best we can.
Be blessed, be a blessing.