Written by Dan LaValla
Tuesday, 05 November 2013 00:00
My last blog, Volunteering is for Suckers was titled from the saying of a personal friend who is not a Christian. That piece was written with an objective tone in response to the recent challenges caused by the decline of volunteerism in the U.S. Since Biblical’s faculty is blogging with an emphasis on missional themes, I wanted to use this post to tease out the issue of volunteering with an emphasis on its significance for Christians living missionally.
According to federal statistics, the current rate of volunteering through religious organizations decreases with each younger generation. That is, the percentage of Americans volunteering through religious organizations steadily decreases with 45.9% of Older Adults volunteering through religious organizations to 38.2% for Baby Boomers to 28.5% for Gen Xers to 28.4% for Millennials. Since the rate of volunteering is also decreasing during this same period (2002-2011), this rules out that the percentage for volunteering through religious organizations is decreasing due to more people choosing to volunteer in other sectors. Thus, not only are there less volunteers, but fewer existing volunteers are choosing to do so through religious organizations. Given the widely known fact that church attendance has been declining steadily for the past decade, theses statistics should not be surprising.
While these statistics are not surprising, they should be disturbing and of great concern for the missional church. To be missional is to be actively participating in God’s mission to reconcile others to Him through Christ. To do this well, Christians are called to exercise their faith through word and deed. We do this by sharing and teaching the Gospel and by demonstrating it through our actions.
Jesus summed the Law up in two commandments (Matt 22:37-39), "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Love requires engagement and service; it is relational and relationships with our neighbors require investment of our time to engage in conversations and shared activities where we serve one another’s needs as if it was as important as our own needs. In the parable of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus emphasizes the point that it is especially important for His followers who have an abundance of resources to share with those who are lacking the basic necessities of life or those who are in need due to illness or imprisonment. When we provide food, water, clothing and shelter or give care to the sick or visit those in prison, Jesus states that we are worthy to be counted among those He has chosen.
According to dictionary definitions, a volunteer is a person who renders aid, performs a service, or assumes an obligation of one’s own free will and without pay. Thus, to be an effective missional Christian, it is important that one be intentional about dedicating one’s time in studying God’s word, sharing the Gospel message with others, and finding avenues to volunteer in matters that are important to serving the church and the needs of others. Give of yourself, your skills, your time, and your love in a way that is compassionate and effective in communicating the Gospel and meeting the needs of your neighbor. Pastors and missional leaders create and facilitate such avenues that will help Christians under your care to volunteer their commitment to such missional pursuits.
Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. Click here to see Dan's faculty bio.