Well it’s volunteers’ week – what does that have to do with churches?  Lots!

One of my favourite church and volunteer stories comes from an outer estate in Newcastle.  The vicar was aware that lots of young people were using the park play area next to the church and decided to open the church and invite them in for hot drinks.  She asked for volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to make drinks and some of the people from the usual Sunday coffee rota volunteered – after all they already knew how to operate the kettle!

It is inspiring to reflect on just how many people are willing to get involved and be part of making things happen. Their volunteering meant that the vicar could spend her time with the young people listening to them.  Great result.  Except that wasn’t the end.  The volunteers started off just making drinks, then inevitably ended up chatting to the young people and by the end the volunteers were sharing stories about what it was like living on the estate when they were younger, talking about skills like sewing, knitting and cooking on a budget and the young people were showing the older people how to text. 

The interesting thing is that if the vicar had asked for volunteers to do some youth work then she might have had fewer offers but this volunteering, like so much good volunteering, grew to fit the skills and the context. 

Lots of people in churches never call themselves volunteers but they still do a huge amount out of love for God and their neighbour and it’s great to be able to celebrate that.  If you are a church leader why not set aside 5 minutes this week and write down all the different things that volunteers in your church do.  I bet the list is long - possibly even longer than you expected.  Hopefully it is inspiring to reflect on just how many people are willing to get involved and be part of making things happen.  I think that one of the things the church can be proud of is that up and down the country we have so many people willing to step forward and make a difference.

If you are interested in thinking more about how you work with volunteers then there are some flexible, adaptable resources on the CUF website at www.cuf.org.uk/workingwithvolunteers and if you are interested in holding a service or event to celebrate volunteers in your church and community then get in touch with Julia Hill (julia.hill@cuf.org.uk) to find out about a pilot that is running this year