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Needed: volunteers outside the church

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Ever notice your church’s weekly calendar? There’s evening service, mid-week prayer, home group, kids clubs, youth groups, ladies fellowship, a conference, and committee meetings galore. There may be a fundraising banquet or a special music event. The calendar is full! Families today are busy, and what free time they have is easily gobbled up by the church.

A year ago, I started working for a non-profit organization that relies heavily on volunteers. My question was, “Where are all the Christians?” My job involves mentoring – and who better to be a mentor than a stable, adult Christian? But how many does our organization have? Probably less than 10 percent.

We sometimes lament that we’re not having as much affect on the community as we would like to have. Could it be because we’re too busy doing church things? Maybe there’s a sense of guilt, because there’s so many things that need to be done in the church and volunteers are limited. Maybe it’s a question of our comfort zones. If we volunteer for Christian/church things, we’ll probably be working with people who believe the same things.

Some may argue that our volunteering work should have a “gospel” element, that the goal of any “Christian” volunteering work is bringing people into a relationship with Christ.

But bringing the kingdom of god does not only have to fly under the banner of a Christian organization. The goal of a Christian who volunteers for any organization should be to bring Jesus to them; our methods may be different, but not any less effective.

We may see social change going in the wrong direction. Why not be part of the solution and get involved by volunteering in a secular organization? I know from experience that they are also starved for volunteers. I believe the church has a whole pool of people to draw from – if only they were more free to do so.

Jesus was concerned about little children, about the poor, the homeless, the widows, the fatherless. The kids in the organization I work for come from families that fit most of those categories. It’s a different world than many of us are used to.

Recently, I interviewed a boy from a home I call “the hell hole.” His mother is deemed unfit to parent, so he lives with his grandmother who is not much better. As this 13-year-old’s story unfolded, he cried and sniffled as he told me how his mother regularly picked up men at the bar and brought them home; how he is picked on at school and has missed over 40 days this year alone; how his grandmother pawned off his old Nintendo so she could buy cigarettes. His bedroom is the living room and he sleeps on an old ratty couch. His biological dad offers little support and allegedly even vandalized their car. I went home to my 13-year-old son, my wife, my house, and something in me said that I had to do something for this boy.

Christians can be great agents for social change. While we may not be able to proselytize, we don’t have to shut our faith down. Because it is who we are, we radiate it, and it will rub off. Volunteering can make us feel food, but our source – our faith in Jesus – is what empowers us to impact others. Let’s share our volunteer workers with the community and then watch how God works!

Dan Harder is a graduate of Canadian Theological Seminary, and is now executive director of Big Brothers in Regina, Sask. Dan attends Parliament Community Church in Regina.

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