If we stop to imagine a “normal” Sunday morning (pre-COVID), it might go something like this:
After negotiating the traffic on 281, you pull into the parking lot, hoping the late start you got hasn’t put you too far behind. The parking volunteer finishes helping a couple cross the lot safely and then gives you a signal that parking is still available to the left. At the church building, you and your brood pause to grab a coffee or cocoa before heading in. On cold mornings, you stand nearer to the heat lamps that keep the porch area comfortable enough to linger. With warm smiles and even warmer beverages, the coffee bar volunteers welcome you and your family, as they busily refill containers, cups, and napkins supplies. You watch your youngest grab a donut and give you a sideways glance. You give him a nod and exchange knowing smiles with the volunteer across from you. Entering the sanctuary, you are flanked at the door by two folks happily offering bulletins. Both people greet you and welcome you in. As your eyes adjust from the daylight to the darker interior, you realize, you aren’t as early as you’d hoped. The room is filling fast. Luckily, one of the ushers points you in the right direction, finding just enough seats for you and your group before the doors shut and the service begins.
By the time you enter the church on a regular Sunday morning, you’ve experienced at least half a dozen interactions with volunteers that have already made your morning easier. They have helped you park, get a coffee and a bulletin, and even made sure the porch was heated so you could linger a bit and chat with friends. For every volunteer you see, there are many more working behind the scenes that keep the church running.
Them and You
Each year, we take time to thank our volunteers at the You Are The Church event which celebrates their contributions over the last year. While our gratitude is important, it’s even more crucial to realize that being grateful for them doesn’t mean the church doesn’t need YOU. What if everyone assumed that volunteering would be taken care of by someone else? That would leave us pretty empty handed. The church can only be successful if enough of you decide to become one of them.
Let’s put this another way. Each of our volunteers is a person who took the time to realize that the “you” in You Are The Church is a personal calling to everyone. “I know that my time on earth is very short and I want my life to be used by the Lord God Almighty as much as possible,” said Tech team volunteer Kelli Moreno. “I am not my own but I have been bought with a price… the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. For me, it’s a no brainer.”
While our volunteers are eager to serve, that doesn’t mean they didn’t have any fears or concerns about volunteering. On the contrary, most everyone does and there are a few misconceptions or myths that contribute to this. So we thought we’d do a little myth busting.
Myth #1 – Volunteers are fearless people who do this sort of thing all of the time
Everyone is new to volunteering at some point and no one considers volunteering without some kind of concern. It’s a normal part of being human to have some level of anxiety around doing something new. You may have a lot of questions or even downright fear.
As Randall Thomason, Kids Ministry volunteer put it: “I was afraid when I started that the kids would not listen to me, that they would be bored and run around the room screaming, never wanting to come back to Sunday School. I figured [the coordinators] would tell me it was not going to work out, so do not come back again. Then next Sunday Dave Tooker would give me a mean look and I would leave Hillside. Well, none of that happened and I have never seen that happen to anyone else.”
Fortunately, most of our fears are unfounded, just as his were, and we can even laugh about them after the fact. Your fears can be overcome by the desire to serve. As followers of Christ, we are the hands and feet of Jesus and it is our calling to use our gifts in His service.
“Of course you have fear any time you are stepping into the unknown,” said Paul and Leanne Horgan, coffee bar volunteers. “We didn’t know that many people and wondered, would we be the odd men out? Also could non-members volunteer?” (The answer is yes, btw) “But everyone was super friendly.”
Myth#2: You have to be a certain “type” to volunteer
You may be thinking that you really don’t have anything to offer or that all volunteers are extreme extroverts that love everyone and have a natural gift that you don’t possess. The truth is that God has given each of us gifts that we are meant to share with the world. Everyone has gifts. There are no exceptions.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:’ 1 Peter 4:10
Our community of volunteers is made up of a variety of personalities and strengths. There is not just one “type” of volunteer. Your volunteer gift could be any number of things – patience, ability to lift heavy things, you work well with kids, seniors or the bereaved, a gift for graphic design, a warm disposition that puts newcomers at ease, you can operate a sound booth… The needs of the church run the gamut from interpersonal to manual labor, but trust that whatever your gifts, the church has a place for them.
Not sure what you can bring to the table? Hillside’s Equip Team is offering a training that can help you assess your gifts and determine where they might best serve. Stay tuned for details on when this half-day training will be offered.
Also, it’s important to note the church needs more than just Sunday volunteers. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer during the week and at different intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). You can find an arrangement that works for you.
“We wanted to contribute — to do more than just attend on Sundays. But we also have a busy lifestyle and don’t have a lot of extra time,” said Leanne Horgan. “But we found we could do this and it has really bonded us to the church. We feel more a part of the church itself.”
Myth#3: Volunteering is draining and thankless
It may surprise some to learn that volunteering is not just an act of giving. Yes, you give of your time and energy, but you also get something in return. Each volunteer comes away with unexpected gifts from the experience. For some it’s new friendships or a fresh perspective.
“The experience has reinforced just how welcoming and authentic everyone is,” said Paul Horgan. “For instance, you see Dave between services and he is just as genuinely warm and conversational as he is on stage. Everyone is. It’s reassuring to see that.”
Perhaps the act of volunteering is even a bit of a faith walk for you.
“One thing I learned a long time ago and it has made a huge impact on my life is that His grace is sufficient for me. God has never let me down and He has always been there for me. Even though I make many blunders, He always gently picks me back up and encourages me to keep pressing on. We just need to show up,” Moreno said.
Or the chance to learn and tap further into the gifts God has given you.
“When I prepare for a lesson, I learn new things. I can learn about the Lord and it also allows me to use the creativity that God has given me to share things that I have learned and to discover ways that might interest the kids.” said Randall Thomason
Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and that should be enough for us. The gifts we get from the volunteer experience are a nice bonus, though.
“You think you are helping the church, but then you end up getting so much in return,” said Paul Horgan.
Consider Yourself Called
So if you are reading this, consider yourself called to serve. Everyone is called to share their gifts in some way. You may have to push slightly beyond your comfort zone, but remember that Jesus set the ultimate example of service in his life, death, and resurrection. To use the gifts He has so graciously given us in His service is the least we can do. And there is no doubt you have much to offer.
“Serve the Lord with gladness: Come before Him with joyful singing.” Psalm 100:2
Communications Serve Team Volunteer