Volunteers are amazing. From day to day operations to leadership roles, there is no limit to where volunteers can help. Or is there? I have been a part of numerous building projects at various facilities. One of the key areas where I see churches saving money is getting volunteers to help offset the costs. This allows the church's money to do more ... but where is the line?
Knowing when to bring in the professionals is a tough call. I have known some amazing volunteers that could do just as good of a job - if not better - than the "Pros." When you bring someone in, you're not only paying for their time, but their expertise in getting the job done safely. Professionals should always be brought in if there is any question about how dangerous the job is. Things that involve extreme heights or dangerous equipment shouldn’t just be handed over to volunteers.
When we revamped the lighting system in our auditorium, we had a numerous lighting fixtures that needed plugs wired onto them. This was the perfect time for us to utilize volunteers. We made an event out of it: stations were set up on stage, a movie was projected on the big screen, and everyone went to work. However, when the time came to hang those lights from the catwalk (where they would be positioned over the congregations' heads) we hired professionals.
Now, in this context, I consider myself and the other paid production staff members to be "professionals.” We have all been trained and many of us have certifications of various forms in rigging and theatrical production. But sometimes that is still not enough. When it comes to our projection systems, we bring in an outside company to swap lamps and do overall maintenance. The thought behind this is that the lamps for these projectors are so expensive and volatile, we don't want the responsibility of an accident resting on the shoulders of our staff. One misstep and it could cost the church a lot of money - not to mention, someone could get seriously injured. We defer these liabilities by paying an outside contractor to take on the risk.
With installs and upgrades, many contractors welcome the assistance of volunteers. It is generally understood that the church is trying to be good stewards of their finances. Our volunteers have pulled cable through conduits, and even soldered connectors on. Painting and final clean-up are also great things for volunteers to do to help save on the budget.
The bottom line is this: don't put saving a buck ahead of a volunteer's wellbeing. It's not worth it.