The blessing of volunteering at church
Written by Mike Gordon
A few years ago, my church had a healthy roster of weekly volunteers. From older people to young adults, the church thrived off generous people who intentionally donated their time, talents, and skills to the church. Some, especially the younger adults, were not in the financial position to donate their income to these ministries, so they decided to give their time instead.
Then one summer our volunteer numbers took a big hit due to people’s inconsistent summer schedules. Due to the need for volunteers, I asked about helping out with the nursery kids.
“We’ll take anyone,” was the harried answer. At that point, I felt more confident to tell them I have never taken care of diaper babies before. But they were so desperate, they were willing to take my time and pathetic attempts at child care.
Fast-forward to this post-pandemic world and many churches in Canada have the same response when it comes to volunteers: “We’ll take anyone.”
There are quite a few reports showing that church attendance is down these days, and if you look around at your congregation, you’ll probably notice some faces in the sanctuary are missing. That means volunteer attendance is down as well.
But getting involved can be about more than just making sure things get done. It can also bring a stronger sense of community within the church by helping you become more connected. Here are some ways you can step into deeper involvement with your church and be enriched in the process.
Ask where your church needs help
Once a year, my church has a Sunday where they talk about all the areas where they need volunteers. I’m always amazed at how many different areas are available to serve. I literally have no idea how much help they need regularly.
Not all churches vocalize these needs from the stage, and sometimes we can just assume that means they don’t need more volunteers. But my guess is most churches do need help.
What if you put yourself out there and asked where they need a few extra bodies? What if you emailed your church or talked to staff or other volunteers to see if they are looking for help? You might discover there are lots of ways to get involved.
Actually sign up
I can’t tell you how often I meet with young adults to talk about how they want to use their gifts and skills to bless their church, but they never actually sign up to do it.
When a volunteer opportunity presents itself, it’s not uncommon for those I meet with to talk themselves out of signing up. They might do this because they are a little intimidated and feel they aren’t equipped to be a youth volunteer, or that they aren’t social enough to be part of the greeting team. If deep in your gut you know you have a great opportunity to serve, don’t let your head talk you out of it.
When you give to a church financially, this is sacrificing something of value that you offer up to God. There’s a cost to it. It’s the same thing when you sacrifice your time. Offering a few hours a week to your church is a way of stewarding your time based on what is important and valuable. There is a cost to that.
One key element of this idea is commitment. It’s one thing to volunteer two or three hours once, but what does this look like on a week-to-week basis? Or on a yearly basis, when you commit your time to your church as a living sacrifice?
This is often the hardest part. If you volunteer and sacrifice your time, don’t bail because you’re bored, or because your friend is no longer volunteering. Commit! One of the greatest blessings to a church are volunteers who are reliable and committed.
Giving some of your time to your church brings value to your own life too. When we look at how Jesus lived, much of His ministry was volunteer-based. I don’t believe He was receiving paycheques from teaching or gas mileage from His travels.
As you extend yourself and your time to others like Jesus did, you’ll discover the fullness of life He teaches about. Committing your time in accordance with your deepest values and priorities is lifegiving in a way that living for your own desires is not. To put it another way, serving others will bring you more joy and fulfillment than any series you watch for hours each week on Netflix.
Engaging in the life of your church is a great way to serve God, bless others, and be part of a community that can bless you in return.