A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Finding the Energy to Do Good

Posted on: May 1, 2014

Picture it: people lining up to volunteer at their children’s school, in their parish, or with a community organization. Enough people power to get the job done. No need for anyone to be “voluntold” to take tasks on.

Now back to reality.

In the years since my son started school, I’ve noticed that it tends to be the same people who volunteer in the schools time and again. But some of these volunteers also work from home or part time outside the home, do before- and after-care for young students, or have other demands on their time.

Similarly, in parishes I’ve belonged to or visited, a number of people served on more than one committee or in various roles during worship services.

But volunteers may find their efforts go unrecognized. Or their suggestions for positive changes seem to fall on deaf ears. Or they juggle too many commitments for fear that, if they stepped down, no one would step up to take on their roles.

Galatians 6:9-10* has timely advice for volunteers, especially in parishes:

And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

So how can we “not grow weary” and avoid volunteer burnout? Here are a few things to consider:

Where our time could best be used: My husband was serving on two committees at our church but realized he had the time and energy to serve only one committee as well as he’d like. Could we have more of an impact if we focussed our efforts on just one or two ministries?

Where our interests and talents lie: In one parish I belonged to, I served as an usher and greeter for several years, even though it wasn’t a good fit for me. I was much more comfortable serving as a lector and leading the prayers of the faithful. In which ministries could we best use our gifts and skills?

Why we’re serving in a certain role: I served on the pastoral council of a parish, in large part because I’d been asked to. But I didn’t consider and pray enough about whether that was where I should be serving. Do we pray (and ask others to pray for us) before we take on new roles?

How to form effective teams: As part of a sacramental preparation team, I saw how all the team members’ gifts, skills and character traits came into play—desktop publishing skills, a talent for calligraphy, and organizational skills, for example—but especially a willingness to serve. Do we try to do too much on our own, or do we recognize our need for help? Do we leave room for others to use their gifts?

How to encourage others in their service: I had second thoughts about my involvement with one committee after receiving some sharp e-mails, while I enjoyed serving in another ministry because we showed care and concern for one other and felt we had a voice at the table. Are we kind to one another in our e-mail and phone contact as well as in person? Are we “all business,” or do we take time to pray for our ministry and volunteers’ concerns and maybe to share a snack while we work? Do we show our appreciation for others’ commitment and efforts?

How to involve more parishioners: I’ve noticed that people may not respond to a bulletin notice or lector’s announcement calling for ministry volunteers, but they may respond to a personal invitation. Is there someone with a beautiful singing voice who might not volunteer for music ministry but would love to be asked? Someone with desktop publishing skills who wouldn’t mind preparing a worship program? Someone with accounting skills who could assist a finance committee? Do we notice and try to draw on the talents of other parishioners?

I pray that God would guide us in identifying where we could best serve in our parish ministries so that we don’t “grow weary” and that he would lead others to serve so that these ministries flourish.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. . . . All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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