What would Sunday morning look like in your church if no volunteers showed up?
For most of us, the sermon would continue as usual, and probably the structure of the service.
However, there might not be any music to fill it, nor audio to support it.
There wouldn’t be any greeters at the door; no coffee service to help people feel comfortable.
Sunday school classes and the nursery would utterly lack supervision.
Some of the seniors might be missing because no one came to drive them to church.
Continue to play it out: what wouldn’t happen on Sunday morning without volunteers?
April is volunteer month in Canada, with Volunteer Canada celebrating volunteer week Apr. 7–13, 2019, under the theme “Lifting Communities.”
With images of hot air balloons, their campaign invokes the ways volunteers lift communities by being involved in the neighbourhood, tutoring literacy learners, coaching sports team, and visiting people.
As illustrated above, the church is one community certainly lifted by volunteers.
In Religion and Volunteering, researchers Jacques Haers and Johan von Essen say that, at its heart, Christian volunteering is following Jesus’ call to love one’s neighbour as oneself (Matthew 22:39).
At church, volunteering is a way to participate in the family of God. Th at participation, following Jesus’ example of service to others out of love for God, shapes us into a character more like Jesus.
So, it is no surprise that surveys by Angus Reid and Statistics Canada note a correlation between people who hold religious faith and those who volunteer regularly.
Pragmatically, volunteering is not only about giving but also about receiving. In church, we observe how teenagers often test their aptitudes and learn new skills by volunteering. It’s a venue for learning.
Th e lessons go beyond the technical to the spiritual. Serving teaches humility and trains us in sensitivity to the needs of others.
Volunteering is a communal activity. It provides a space for intergenerational relationships to form and grow. It’s a mentoring space where people at different places on their journey can learn from one another.
Taking it deeper, it’s our response to the call of God for us to participate with him in relating with the world.
Volunteering is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations that succeeded the 8 Millennium Development Goals. It’s seen as a key component to developing just societies: “Volunteerism lets people and communities participate in their own growth.”
For all ages, volunteering provides an opportunity to use professional skills – or, just as often , to develop
new ones – and to expand relational networks. It creates a space where the aroma of Christ we carry can open conversations with those who catch its alluring scent.
Volunteering is changing. Th e required skills, the time commitments, and volunteers’ expectations may not be the same today as in previous decades. Our capacity to give and the places we are compelled to do so may fluctuate with the changing world around us and in us. But the basic call remains: to love God, to love our neighbour, and to participate with God in the world, walking alongside each other as simultaneous helpers and learners.