Recently a friend with little kids asked about volunteering as a family, she wanted to know the how and the why of volunteering, even with small children in tow. And most of the folk reading our blog will understand that the help of small children can often be a lot less helpful than we would like! That being said, we have found that volunteering as a family has been a great way for us to enjoy spending time together as a family, there is nothing like working together to create a team spirit. We are called to serve: Joshua 24:15 “… But as for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” Our whole household is called to serve, not just those sixteen and over… everybody can work towards a project that is bigger than themselves, and make a difference.
If you read about volunteering, so much of it seems counter-cultural, especially if you are approaching from a “to each his own” first world culture. We are also geared up into thinking that we have to do something huge in order to be make a difference. Serving a guest a nice drink, or cheerfully helping an old friend with their gardening, is also volunteering and perfectly doable even for small people. We live in the world of “Go big or Go Home…” yes it is awesome and dreamy to be part of the big stuff, but it is also an attitude of the heart and it is best to learn heart stuff by starting small.
Se7en + 1 Bible Verses To Nuture For A LifeStyle of Volunteering
- “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:7-8:
- “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Genesis 2:15
- “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians9: 6-7
- “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; Psalm 24:1
- “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
- “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Colossians 3:22-23
- “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
- “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
To serve is a whole lot more about our attitude than our actions. How often we hope no-one will notice if we don’t put our hands up to help and when we can’t avoid being noticed, we raise our hand to volunteer and then try so ridiculously hard to impress other people, not just the neighbours, but friends and family too… we try so hard to impress, we crash and burn, fail, pick ourselves up again and repeat. We are actually called to do our best, and to serve the Lord… no one expects us to impress anyone. Luckily, because the kind of volunteering I have been involved in might have required strong and energetic youngsters… not you know, past their prime-mothers of many… and I was certainly impressing nobody… but I was making a difference and that counts, and I have a feeling it might count a lot more than we expect it too.
We were created to work… before the fall in Genesis 3, God created families and he created us to work… and it was good. And that is why we enjoy working hard so much… half hearted work, that we are not committed too, does not reflect our inate character. And a first world culture that is crying for the “Earn as much as you can for as little work as possible” goes against our need to work. I don’t think my kids have ever gotten back from a day of tree planting or painting a container for a school building, or a beach clean-up and said that they didn’t love it. We are meant to work hard and when we do, for the right reasons, we will love it.
We live in a culture of “looking after number one” and our gut reaction, and this is true for myself, is very often to say “no” and then consider things a little longer and maybe say, “yes.” It is not natural for us to generously give of our money… and we have become incredibly self-absorbed with our time. We talk about hours spent on our morning routine, or hours spent online not actually working… but how often we say we don’t have time to chat to folk at church who may’ve had a bad week, or found out if all a student needs to get through the next week is a bag of groceries so that they can concentrate on their studies rather than their next meal. We are called to give generously but we don’t. As a family we have found that by committing days to volunteering long in advance and just blocking them out on the calendar that those days are then booked. It is so much harder to find a free day once you are in the thick of things.
We live in a culture of ownership, we need to remember who we belong to. It is one thing to say that we are stewards of the world and quite another to behave as guests in it. If I was visiting someone’s home then I would never tolerate litter on the floor, well the time has arrived that a visit to the beach inevitably means a beach clean-up before we play. No we don’t own the beach or the park, or the mountainside for that matter, but we do care about it and we do need to keep them clean and not wait for someone else to clean it up.
I mentioned before that we are called to work, yet we are so tempted to feast on the plate of idleness… we can spend our days wasted in busy-ness… there is nothing like the fatigue of a a couple of hours spent browsing around on social media… compared to the tiredness that comes from a good day of actual work. Often we say, oh we can’t… but there are so many million ways to volunteer that if you can’t do one thing then you can certainly do another. You might not be able to build a school with your hands own from where you are standing, but you could sort your book cases and create a pile of books to donate. There is no shortage of work to be done… there is always a shortage of eager workers. I would like our kids to grow up to be eager workers.
If your goal is to impress the neighbours, or your kids, or even your husband then you will fail. In fact, I have found the closer to home I go, the less likely folk are going to be with the things that I do… just saying, have you ever tried to impress your own kids, talk about mission impossible. Honestly I don’t think I am shining beam of volunteering example for my kids, but I do think that by consistently saying yes we can help, when a friend asks us to help with the Christmas party for local street kids, or spend a day planting trees in a dog shelter… that while I am encouraging our kids to serve faithfully they are also learning that this is just a way of life and not something we do to try and impress the neighbours.
One of the most overlooked areas of volunteering… having folk over to visit in your home can be a great way to volunteer and offer sanctuary to those that are in need… folk might be in need of rest, they might be in need of homework help, they might just need someone to talk to… this too is volunteering and it is something that definitely requires team work from all the players involved… someone has to sweep, someone has to bake something and someone has to clean the bathroom. I can assure you that I am unable to do all that in an instant… but my team of players can certainly pull that off. We are all still working on the grumbling part.
In a world where folk are doing important jobs and are busy with important work… it might important to just take a breathe and realise that you are important enough to spend time with your family and as a family do something for somebody else. It doesn’t have to be massive, though it can be… and surprisingly enough it will most likely turn out to be not only hard work… but a lot of fun. The joyful part follows naturally from wholesome work… try it you’ll see.