What’s your excuse for not volunteering?

I love volunteering with Revolution.  Previously, I loved volunteering with Common Ground.  I also love volunteering with PCTC.  It’s been awesome to build so many great relationships by giving up my time and giving it to these great groups.  I feel bad for the people who come to church (or any other service organization for that matter) and choose not to invest themselves and their time.  They think they are getting the whole picture, but instead they are only catching the slightest glimpse.  Watching how things come together and in some cases putting things together myself has been unbelievably beneficial in helping me to get more out of Revolution, Common Ground and PCTC.

What is your excuse for not getting involved with something you’re a part of?  Time?  That is probably the most quoted response I get.  I am a huge proponent of creating personal space and coveting family time.  It is vitally important to the growth of your relationship, the health of your children, and your own mental and spiritual well-being.  That said, I wonder how you are using your time?  Volunteering at Revolution, for example, barely cuts into your schedule.  Sure, Revolution asks and expects people committed to the church to attend a Local Revolution (sorta like a small group for you non-Revolutionaries).  Unless you are the leader of the group, LR will take about two to three hours out of your week.  Now, how many hours of non-committed time does that leave you?  I commute 10 hours a week and work 40 to 50.  I try to sleep 56 hours a week.  After LR, that leaves almost 60 hours.  Add in church (without volunteering) and I still have more than 45 to 55 hours.  What are you doing with that time?  Is there TV time in there that can be eliminated?  Is there time spent participating in unhealthy relationships or unhealthy conversation (gossip, malicious words, etc.)?   Probably, because I know that despite volunteering, those things are still a part of my life.

The truth is that most of us don’t spend our time very wisely.  We take for granted the time we have with our family, so our excuse that we are not volunteering in order to savor that time becomes weak.  This has been painfully apparent to me in the past few weeks.  Becky works after I get home from work a few days a week.  Unfortunately, we are in a financial position where this is necessary right now.  The past few weeks, other commitments, modified work schedules for Becky and business travel for me have really sliced into our family time.  It should makes me value the time we do have, but a lot of times, I don’t.  The upside to the schedule shift is that it has given me a lot of one on one time with Ariella.  We’ve had several dinner conversations and had a lot more play time than we had in the preceding few weeks.  It would be easy for me to sit her in front of the TV and do the things I want/need to do around the house, but instead, I choose to engage her, have her help me when possible and have great conversations with her, despite her limited vocabulary.  On Tuesday, for example, we had quesadillas at California Tortilla and had a great talk while soccer moms looked at me with awe.  Meanwhile the dad behind me with his school-age daughter sat silently reading his Blackberry while his daughter chomped a taco.  Part of me leans toward being that guy.  But I refuse to give in to that part.  What I’m saying is that honoring your family by being protective of time with them and volunteering is not mutually exclusive.

Yes, a lot of leaders in organizations, particularly churches in my experience, are blind to when they are overwhelming or eventually burning out their volunteers.  But that is where an awesome part of being a volunteer is.  You are part of the system, you have a voice, you are no longer simply an observer.  Ultimately, you can say you need a break.  Leaders of these organizations view time differently (and there is a lot more I could say on that but this blog is already too long) and don’t always foresee where you may be coming from, so you need to tell them.  If the leaders don’t help you get that break or lay out a clear path toward that break, well… that is a whole other blog I could write.  Shoot, a whole other book.  My friend Julia put it really well while we were driving home from PCTC.  To paraphrase, she said you need to humbly honor the commitment you’ve made but be honest and helpful in fixing the things that are squeaky, breaking or broken.  If you’re a part of things, you can make them better, and it WILL make you better.

So, what I’m saying is that if you spend your time more wisely, I can guarantee that you can find time to volunteer.  You are needed.  Your insight, your skills, your humor, your honesty, your critiques…all these things will help build a stronger organization, whether it is a church, parachurch organization, running organization that helps people get back on their feet, food bank, etc.  Volunteer.

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