Robot Volunteers?

Have you heard about the new robot called "BlessU-2?"  It's a robot built onto an ATM like machine that gives blessings to those who engage with it.  When activated, the robot's plastic fingers open and it raises its palms to offering a blessing for the person standing in front of it.

The BlessU-2 robot speaks 7 different languages in either a male and female voice, depending on user preference.  It offers four different types of blessings: traditional, companionship, encouragement and renewal.  The blessings incorporate more than 40 Bible verses.  It was installed by the Protestant Church in Hessee and Nassau in Wittenberg, Germany.

While the robot is obviously on the cutting-edge of emerging technology, it is sparking conversation and debate.

Who or what can offer blessings?

Can God bless through a robot?

Can a robot effectively take the place of a human in offering blessings?

BlessU-2 is not the only "religious robot."  A robot called "Xian'er" has been developed for a temple in Beijing.  It looks like a cartoon monk and answers visitors' questions about Buddhism.  In Japan, a company has developed a robot called "Pepper" that can perform Buddist funeral rites.  And Anthony Levandowski, who is an engineer, has registered a religious organization named "Way of the Future" that seeks to develop and promote the realization of God based on artificial intelligence.

Could there be robot volunteers in children's ministry one day?  A hundred years from now, could preschool environments at churches be staffed by robot volunteers?  Small group leader robots that are programmed to lead discussions, answer Bible questions and offer up prayers for kids?  How about robot volunteers who teach parenting classes for young couples?  Maybe robot volunteers operating video and audio controls?  Or a robot volunteer teacher that is programmed to teach Bible stories with sound effects, video projection and object lessons?

You never know what could happen with technology.  100 years ago, people never dreamed you would instantly be able to talk with someone on the other side of the world through a smile device that fits in your pocket.  Or that you could store thousands of files on a device the size of a needle.

One thing I do know and believe is this.  Nothing can take the place of a real, live, breathing, human volunteer.  Without people volunteering, there is no children's ministry.

God uses people.  He always has...He always will.  He uses people who voluntarily yield themselves to God and ask Him to work through their lives to impact the next generation.

Discipleship happens when a volunteer looks into the eyes of a child and says, "You matter to me.  You matter to God.  I care about you and want to help you grow in your faith.  Let's go on a spiritual journey together."  God works through heart-to-heart connections to help kids grow spiritually.

Years ago, when Walt Disney was preparing to open Disneyland for the very first time,  he looked around at all the cutting-edge technology, rides, attractions and entertainment facilities he had placed in the park and he said this...
You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it takes people to make the dream a reality.
What was Walt saying?  Nothing can take the place of people.  No cool cutting-edge video robot...can take the place of a volunteer. 

If you are a volunteer reading this, I want to remind you of how important you are.  You are the most valuable part of the ministry.  You matter.  What you do much.  Thank you for your heart for the next generation.  Thank you for investing in children.  Thank you for your faithfulness.  Thank you for the impact you are making.  You are the heart and soul of the ministry. 

If you lead volunteers, I want to encourage you to value the volunteers in your ministry.  Love them.  Care for them.  Say "thank you" every week.  Spoil them.  Encourage them.  Equip them.  Invest in them.  Empower them.  Value them.  Pour your time, resources and energy into them.  Make volunteers one of the top priorities in your ministry.

Robot volunteers?  I don't think so.  Robots won't change a kid's life.  An anointed, caring, faithful, human volunteer is how it happens now and is how it will happen in the future.

Want to build and strengthen your volunteer team?  Dale's book "The Formula for Building Great Volunteer Teams" is just what you're looking for.  Order it now at this link.