If you are like me, you have been in a position to recruit volunteers for something. You are on a board or committee and have needed to find people to help you carry out your mission. You got organized, planned your event, and sent out an email to get volunteers. You were enthusiastic and excited to do your thing. You were thinking about how great it would be if so-and-so volunteered because she is great with kids. Or how awesome it was going to be to organize your volunteers based on their gender, skills, and talents.
And then no one responded.
I work with several organizations (probably too many if you ask my husband) that rely on the servant hearts of others. All of the organizations are good causes, worthy of my time and effort. They all also take more than a few people to be successful, and they all have this one thing in common.
They struggle to find volunteers.
There are usually a small number of people who end up carrying the load. And while those people are a great blessing to me and to whatever the cause is, I am also discouraged at the lack of response and frustrated to have to pick up the slack. I wonder why. I take it personally. I want to quit myself.
I have done some reading on the subject, and there are actually some good reasons that people don’t volunteer for things.
- They are concerned about not having the knowledge or skill to perform the task (I find this especially true when asking for help at church, people worry that they won’t know what to say or how to interact with a ministry or group).
- They haven’t been asked to help. This doesn’t mean that they haven’t received your email asking them to help- they got that email. But they need to be asked personally. Preferably in person, not over the phone. They need to be able to ask questions and hear what a difference they will be making.
- They’ve helped in the past, but they didn’t feel needed when they did. They showed up not having a specific task to do, and they didn’t have enough to keep them busy. They felt out of the loop.
- They didn’t know anyone in the organization. They felt like an outsider. They weren’t included in the communication or planning. Again, they felt left out.
- They are too busy. They are full time employees and trying to balance their work, home, social, and spiritual lives is overwhelming. Their kids play club sports so their evenings and weekends are filled with ballgames and practices.
Another trend I have noticed as I scroll through my Facebook feed is that women are urging each other to spend their free time taking care of themselves. Self-care is the buzz word. The memes and articles tell us that we need to spend time and money on ourselves so that we will feel better. It’s ok to be selfish. We are busy, tired, and we deserve it.
I challenge this.
Most of us, when we do take the time to do something for ourselves (which takes time and usually money), end up feeling guilty and having to catch up on the things we neglected while we were pampering ourselves. Not that we don’t deserve the occasional night off, date with our husbands, or trip to the spa. But these things don’t fill your soul the way giving back to a great cause does. They are a nice occasional treat, but they leave a void. In my experience, giving my time to others fills my cup. It makes me feel good. It reminds me of my purpose.
A few years ago I was trying to learn how to say no. I was working on not putting too many things on my plate. I felt overwhelmed by my responsibilities and decided that I just needed to start saying no- to an extra assignment at work, to a friend who wanted to have dinner, to the PTO asking me to make brownies, to the church asking for my time on a committee. I was going to turn everyone down and spend my time on me.
But I never did learn how to do it.
What I did learn is that I don’t have to say yes to everything, but I shouldn’t always say no either. I should prayerfully consider requests to participate, but not turn them down just for my own comfort and convenience.
Lately, my energy has been spent volunteering at my church more than anywhere else. That is where I feel called to serve. And also where it is the most difficult to recruit help.
I read this article article yesterday, and I love this idea. The author points out that our churches are like our homes and families. And in the same way that you can’t babysit your own kids (because they belong to you), you can’t volunteer in your church. You take care of your church. You look for the need and you help. You care about the salvation of your family, so you teach Sunday school, lead Bible study, and welcome new members.
I would challenge you to look for somewhere that you can give back. Start with your church. They need you. You need them. Look for even small ways that you can give. Ask around to find a need to fill. Be open to a request to join in.
Jesus said “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Praise Him and serve others. It’s what we are called to do!