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Time. Talent. Treasure. Being a member of the Catholic Church has forever engrained those words in my brain. Usually, these words accompany a call for donations to the organization, instead of a conversation about the best way to volunteer.
God desires for us to be generous with our time, talent, and treasure. This generosity is called stewardship.
However, there is a tendency to focus only on time and treasure and not on talent. This tendency is understandable. Donations have been down for a long time, and churches need money to run (and as the daughter of a church worker, I ask that you please not neglect that aspect of stewardship!). Many church events need volunteers to run smoothly.
But, when we choose not to focus on talent and not talk about the best way to volunteer, we neglect what it means to be the Body of Christ. We all have a different role to play in the Body of Christ, and our talents are one of the many ways we can each play our unique role.
Recently, I have started to focus more on the talent aspect of stewardship, and it has been rewarding. For example, I have always had a talent for playing piano and singing, but I never considered that this talent had a place in my parish. The same was true of my talent for crocheting. But, when I prayed about using my talents to help others, I realized that I should begin to use these talents to help others. So, I joined a choir, and I started to crochet blankets for Project Linus and prayer shawls for our local prayer shawl ministry. It has been very humbling to see how God has used these talents for the good of others. And, it has made me wonder what would happen if everyone did the same.
Before we dive into how to discern the best way to volunteer, I want to address some possible roadblocks.
You may feel as if you have no time to volunteer. Yes, you may have limited time because of your current vocational responsibilities, but most people have the time, even if they do not realize it. The book 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam can help you know you have more time than you think.
You may also feel like you do not know what your talents are. To help you discover those, I recommend Your Blue Flame by Jen Fulwiler. It is a quick and fun read that allows you to find your God-given talents.
We all need to discern how to live out the requirements of stewardship, especially when it comes to the best way to volunteer. This article will take you through some questions to help with that discernment. To help guide you, feel free to snag this helpful worksheet!
But First, Why Volunteer?
There are four main reasons why volunteering is important:
- In Genesis 2, God says that “it is not good for man to be alone.” This phrase means that, as humans, we must live in a community. In a family, everyone has to pitch in to cover all necessary tasks. The same is true for our human family. We need everyone’s gifts to help every member of humanity thrive.
- In Matthew 25, Jesus rebukes those who do not serve Him disguised in the needy. Volunteering helps us to practice those works of mercy, and so be among those who hear the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
- As stated above, volunteering is a great way to practice stewardship.
- Finally, besides benefitting others, volunteering helps improve our quality of life through new friends, improved self-esteem, and more.
Discernment Questions to Help You Discover the Best Way to Volunteer
I have found that the best way to volunteer is an intersection of four things:
- Your gifts and talents
- The needs of the community
- Your passions
- Your available time.
Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Gifts and Talents
In Your Blue Flame, Jen Fulwiler takes the reader through several questions to help them discover their gifts and talents. Here are a few I have found especially helpful:
- What am I good at that others are not?
- For what do I receive compliments?
- What activities do I lose track of time during because I get so lost it?
Needs of the Community
This activity might require some searching, especially if you are unaware of the needs of your community.
To see if there are any needs in your parish community, I recommend taking a good look at your bulletin. See if there are any opportunities advertised, and also, take note of things you think are missing. For example, do you feel a need for a women’s group but realize that one does not exist? Also, see if you notice any areas of improvement, such as a website design, etc.
I then recommend that you do the same thing with the websites of local nonprofits.
For this part, think about what issues get you fired up. For example, do you constantly talk and think about pro-life causes? Does it make you angry when certain groups are underserved? Your answers can help to reveal your passions.
Your Time Constraints
First, think about your current vocational obligations. Vocational obligations can include work, childcare, being with a spouse, taking care of an apartment or house, feeding yourself and possibly others, and more. Also, consider the time you need to spend taking care of yourself, such as through activities to improve your health and time on hobbies.
Then, think about your remaining time. Is this a consistent block of time, or does it change? Could you gain more free time by trading off childcare with a spouse or making your work more efficient? With all of this in mind, you will know what time is available for volunteering.
If you need extra help with this step, I highly recommend 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam.
Putting It All Together
With all of these answers written out, you may already see some intersections. For example, maybe a need in your community fits in well with your talents, passions, and available time. Perhaps you see an opportunity to start something.
I recommend also taking these answers into prayer and seeing if the Lord is calling you to make a few changes or try something new. You may be surprised by His answers!
How To Get Started
- Take the time to go through these questions thoroughly. If you are struggling with answering them, feel free to ask those close to you to weigh in! (This is especially true if you are married. Your new volunteering pursuits will likely impact your spouse, so make sure to include them!)
- Take a few days to ponder your answers and possible intersections. Take them into prayer as well. Keep track of what comes up as you ponder and pray.
- From there, come up with a few preliminary possibilities for volunteering pursuits. Pick one to start. After you get your feet under you with this first pursuit, you can always come back and add more. Starting with just one goal can help you avoid burnout and overwhelm.
- Create a new weekly schedule (as described in 168 Hours) that will include this new pursuit. Decide what action step you need to take to get started and schedule it into that time. For example, do you need to call someone to sign up? Do you need to do some research for a new project you want to start? Do you need to meet with your pastor? Continue to come up with these next actions and schedule them into your regular time blocks.
I hope that this has been helpful and will inspire you to use your talents to help others. How amazing it would be if we all did so!
As a reminder, feel free to grab this free worksheet to help you organize your answers to these questions.
To learn more about how volunteering fits in with vocation, check out this article.
Finally, if you found this article helpful, could you please share it with one other person? If we all did so, imagine the impact it would have on the world, all of those people volunteering in a way that uses their God-given talents in the best way.