By Rev. Rich Leatherberry, Associate Pastor for Mission
Helping others is one of the best ways we can demonstrate the love of Jesus. Here are four principles that will make you a better volunteer and improve your experience.
1. Relationships come first. We live in a task-oriented culture filled with micro-wave fixes to multiple source problems. We rush to solutions, try to fix or change something without really getting to know the other person. Relationships are God’s stage for life change. Regularly meeting with someone, loving them, listening to them, earning trust, staying with them no matter what is going on in their life, help us find out where someone is really aching and where they are faking in life. That’s when we discover what people really need. Relationships come first.
2. Come as a learner. We are lifelong students in God’s global classroom. We have so much to learn from the people we serve. They expand our hearts and help us become more compassionate people. They show us more about Jesus and what it means to be one of His followers. They teach us about love and grace and forgiveness. God not only uses us to make other people better. He uses other people to make us better, if we will let Him.
3. With not for. Jesus’ ministry was about empowering and releasing others. The feeding of the 5,000 is a great example. The disciples told Jesus there was a problem, i.e. there were lots of hungry people who needed something to eat. But instead of solving the problem for them, He did it with them. Jesus collected the food they had, blessed it and then gave it back to them to give away to the masses. The miracle happened as the disciples gave the food away and everyone was fed. Jesus didn’t do it for them. He did it with them, empowering and releasing them. Whatever you are doing to volunteer and serve, find ways to empower and release. Do it with others not for them.
4. All About Jesus. There are lots of reasons why we volunteer. One reason is because it feels good, i.e. “I do it for me.” A second reason is because it helps someone else, i.e. “I do it for them”. These are great reasons but they can also have a dark side. For example, when “I do it for me’ then I am in danger of exploiting other people for my benefit and my greatest concern becomes whether this is working out well for me. Similarly, when “I do it for them”, I am in danger of placing all my expectations on them. They need to become who I think they should be, do what I think they should do and improve according to the timelines I have set. But when this happens, burn-out, frustration and deep disappointment are not far behind.
A third reason to volunteer is for love of Jesus, all that He is and all that He does to rescue this world. (I do it for Him). There is no dark side here. Jesus is the reason we serve and the one who serves through us. We serve with His love and compassion, act as His hands and feet, accept and forgive others with His grace. And when it’s all for Jesus then everyone gets better; the volunteer and the people we serve .