by Gina, Steppes of Faith
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
It’s been a long and sometimes crazy string of years here at our house. We have three boys, one older and the other two are twins, all in elementary school. For so long it seemed that I would never be able to volunteer at church. The call would go out every year for more helpers and, as much I longed to sign up, I just couldn’t. It would just be too much on my plate. It was impossible, as far as I was concerned.
But I still wanted to help. How could I do it without overwhelming myself?
Did I really even have to volunteer church at all?
Is it required?
I churned this question in my mind over and over again. I would look at other mommas who seemed to have it all together, all happily giving their time at every church event with either a baby strapped to their hip or put in the church’s childcare for hours on end. How did they do it all? How did they find the energy? How did they overlook the hours spent away from their children without giving it a second thought? And how did they manage to carve out so much stinkin’ time?
Let’s be clear, I am NOT casting any stones here. These ladies I know are all fantastic women and mothers. But I know how I am, and I just couldn’t pull it off like they could. Maybe it was my age (I didn’t start a family until I was almost 40), maybe it’s the onset of menopause, or maybe it was a sort of resentment or feeling of being “tied down” by kids that paralyzed me.
I have no earthly idea. All I knew is that if I volunteered I would be sent over the edge of mental stability.
Sometimes It’s Not Time Yet to Volunteer
Don’t let anyone fool you. Having twins is HARD-HARD-HARD. It’s not double the fun, at least not all the time. It’s more like ten times the work around the clock, 24/7/365. Two feeding schedules (forget breastfeeding), two napping schedules, two midnight soothing sessions, double the medical care, double the clothing, toys, and food, and something like at least a million diaper changes (I did the math once, we were spending over $700 a month on diapers alone!).
Sleep? What’s that??
Pile on double the post-partum and double the weight and hip spread from carrying twins, I was not a happy person. Thankfully, the Lord blessed me with an easy first child who was so awesome through all of this. Not to mention my very compassionate husband.
Nevertheless, the first year of their lives was a complete blur.
So the thought of taking extra time to volunteer at church added a lot of guilt and would often eat me up to the point of tears.
How did those other moms do it??
It’s Only a Season
I had the great fortune of knowing one of the most wonderful couples you could ever meet, Sol and Terry Pichond. They are reformed Jews with an amazing love for Christ. Their dedication to the Lord and the church was something to behold. And God blessed them with incredible wisdom, which they kindly shared with me one particular Sunday.
It was another one of those services when the pastor invites the congregation to serve in the church. I was beginning to feel the guilt flood my heart when Sol went up to the pulpit to invite folks to help out the pregnancy crisis center he and his wife help operate. I knew it was a place I could be effective…if I could just find the time!
I approached Sol and Terry after the service to tell them I wanted to help, but I didn’t know how. And in their loving, caring, gentle way, they simply put their arms around me and said, “Your time will come. Let others handle it for now. Your calling is at home, so that’s where you should be. When the babies grow enough, the Lord will lead you to the right place of service.”
And in the blink of an eye, all my guilt and shame was gone. Just like that.
I felt understood. I felt forgiven. And I felt relieved because I thought it was just laziness that kept me from volunteering. The truth is that God was holding me back. My calling was at home. It was my mission field.
At least for a season.
Help is Needed Everywhere
The boys are older now and I am regaining some of my time back. And so I have been exploring ways to volunteer, especially at church. The strange thing is that every time I sign up, it doesn’t pan out for some reason. It’s either a problem on my end or on theirs. I have managed to go out with them on Saturday mornings for community outreach, but not during regular church services.
I knew that I was supposed to help somehow, but it wasn’t working out at church of all places. So I asked God to show me where I could go.
And that’s when He opened up my eyes to the needs of kids at my boys’ school.
Many parents help out with the PTA, field trips, or fundraising events at their child’s school, which I do. But I wanted to do more than that. So I started by simply helping out my older son’s teacher by teaching her first-grade students how to read and write. One hour a week. That’s all she asked me to do.
From that modest starting point, God began blessing me in wonderful ways so I could bless others. But I wasn’t giving my time at the church.
Did it still count?
I went back to the Lord in prayer asking Him if this was all okay with Him. I didn’t get a quiet whisper confirming anything. But I did begin to experience a bunch of doors opening. I took that as a positive sign.
It’s been five years now that I’ve been at the school. I have volunteered for many teachers teaching reading and writing, including cursive writing. I was even on the paid staff for a short time because they were short-handed. I have come to know so many wonderful people- teachers, students, and parents. I feel instantly blessed when they come up to me with a smile and a hug. What a joy it is to help a child read!
I’ve come to know so many kids that I almost feel like a part of their lives. And the kids all know to expect a hug from me when I see them. It’s so awesome. One of my boys eventually asked, “Mom, we’re pretty popular in this school, aren’t we?” I wouldn’t say that. I think we just know a lot of good people, that’s all.
Time = Love
God commands us in Matthew 22:37-39 that we are to love God and love others. And that we should, like Jesus, let the children come to us. To care for the least of these.
Many of the boys and girls I work with have no books at home, mom and dad aren’t around much, some have developmental delays (sometimes severely), or they are transitioning from speaking only Spanish to learning English. It tugs at my heart to know that these wonderful kids may not reach their full potential unless and until a loving grownup steps in to lend a hand.
Teachers can’t do it alone, and neither can many other people and organizations. Volunteers make a world of difference in people’s lives.
It All Counts!
I’m still not volunteering at church full time and that bothers me a little. Despite the fact that I’d still like to be more involved there, the devil is doing his best to convince me that helping at a school isn’t good enough. That it doesn’t really count because I’m not doing it at a church.
Remember that the devil’s only goal is to turn you away from God by filling you up with horrible lies, stealing your joy, and destroying your faith. He doesn’t want you to help others. He thinks you should stay home and binge on Netflix and Moose Tracks ice cream.
Knowing this up front, when Satan comes in and tries to tell you you’re too busy, you’re not smart enough, you don’t know anyone, or you’re just too tired, it’s good to call on God’s promise in James 4:7-8, 10 that says,
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”
So don’t be fooled! Volunteering anywhere absolutely counts.
It’s anywhere you can be God’s hands and feet. It’s anywhere you can be a light in someone’s darkness. It’s anywhere you can share the love of God by simply offering your time with a sincere smile.
It all counts!
Whether at a school or right in your own neighborhood…whether you’re picking up trash by the side of the road…or you’re shoveling snow off your neighbor’s driveway…whether you offer to regularly drive your kids and their friends to football or gymnastics…or shelve books at the local library…
Volunteering counts everywhere.
You’re helping others.
You’re sharing the love of Jesus.
You’re making a difference!
Where Should I Volunteer?
Your help doesn’t have to be church-directed. Look around you and you’ll find ways to plug in. But if it seems hard, take it to God in prayer and ask Him to open your eyes to see where the need is and where He wants you to be. Then be obedient to His direction.
God is always looking for volunteers. It’s great if you can help your church, but don’t shortchange yourself if you feel God leading you somewhere else. Someone is in need everywhere you look. Donate your time wherever you can, in whatever way you can. The Lord has promised to bless you.
And if you can take your kids along, more power to you.
Where has God led you to help others? Do you feel Him calling you to help right now? Or have you been struggling to find a way to volunteer? Let us know here. Let’s talk about how we can offer our time, talent, and treasure to others for the glory of God’s kingdom.
Wherever you choose to volunteer, I encourage you to pray about it first. Let God lead you to where He can best bless you and those you’re serving.
If you would like to understand more about why your kids should volunteer plus get some valuable suggestions about where to volunteer, this a great little article from the folks at PBS Kids. http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/emotions/volunteering/article2.htm
If you’re looking for reasons why volunteering is good for adults, Dr. Dawn Carr at Psychology Today wrote an article laying it all out for you. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to link to the full article. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-third-age