In October 2010, US News and World Report[i] dedicated a periodical to the spirit of volunteerism in the United States. It was an interesting issue. Here are some of the stats they provided:
- 63.4 million Americans volunteered in 2009, an increase of 1.6 million from the year before (2008).
- This group contributed 8.1 billion hours of service for an estimated dollar value of nearly $169 billion.
- Volunteering in the US jumped last year at the fastest rate in 6 years.
- Charitable giving, though down 3.6% from 2008, surpassed $300 billion in 2009.
- It is estimated that together Americans give 2-3 times more than people in any other country.
- Survey of more than 4,500 adults (April, 2010), 68% said they felt better physically since they started volunteering; 29% said giving back was helping them manage a chronic condition.
These are secular examples of giving of ourselves and the benefits of giving, but when we add the extra message of “God loves you,” it’s even more beneficial.
So how can we get started if we aren’t giving at all?
US News and World Report gives some guidelines on “Where to Start.” We can use these same guidelines to find where we can volunteer within the local church or community. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s your passion?
- What are your skills?
- Are you an adrenaline junkie?
- How much time do you have?
“Give away your life; you'll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity." (Luke 6:38 The Message) Now that’s a real benefit to service!
A wonderful example of giving of ourselves can be found in the book of Acts 9:36-42. Tabitha (Dorcas) was a woman who was “always doing good and helping the poor.” She made clothes for the widows in town, but one day she got sick and died. Peter was summoned and after hearing her story, he raised her from the dead.
There was one thing that struck me about the account of Tabitha. I got a feeling that these widows who were showing Peter the clothing that Tabitha had made for them had nowhere else to go for the clothing. It seemed as if Tabitha was the only person who was providing this service to them. In losing Tabitha, they lost someone who cared for them. And there wasn’t anyone stepping up to take her place. No wonder the women were mourning.
Look around you. One day, those who have mentored you through your life will be gone. Who will take their place? You may not believe you can teach or lead a Bible study group, but there is something you could be willing to do. Find the one thing you are interested in doing. Then find an older person who does that and let them know you want to learn how to do it. Ask if they would be willing to teach you. Someday, that person of faith will not be in that position and you’ll be there to take the baton and cross the finish line.
Romans 15:1-2 tells us, “Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’”
How can I help? Now that’s a powerful question!
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,