When you think about the word volunteer, what comes to mind? Depending on the usage, the word volunteer means:
noun: a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.
verb: freely offer to do something.
I don’t remember volunteering for many things when I was younger, but when I saw the need for volunteers at our church I felt the urge to jump in. I began helping with our church Vacation Bible School (VBS) in 2006. The first time the little pre-school aged kids came into my classroom I remember feeling scared and a little overwhelmed! They were adorable little creatures but there were so many of them! My job was to be the puppet, “Chadder”. He was a popular character, a chipmunk, and the kids loved him. He always reminded the kids about how much God loves them and he always liked to eat M&M’s. It was during my first year of VBS that I met the director of our VBS, a wonderful young woman named Dina Newsom.
Dina was so very kind to me as I was brand new to volunteering. She made sure I had all the supplies I needed and even decorated my room for me. I finished VBS that year feeling good about life and I was even feeling good about myself. I hoped that the kids had fun and soon discovered that some kids even recognized me outside of church.
I have been a VBS volunteer every year since then. Each year I try to brainstorm new things to do and spend time to decorate by room to match that years’s theme. I have even traveled twice to Hong Kong with Dina to help lead VBS at an elementary school there!
I never realized how much time Dina puts into her leadership role. She organizes, makes phone calls, lines up volunteers, puts together all of the scripts, bags and other items just to ensure that each child that walks through the front door of the church has the best and most safe experience ever. She is also a busy mom of 3 and wife to Donald. She volunteers at her kids school and somehow, every year is able to juggle all of these things and do them extremely well!
When she asked me about volunteering again this year, God laid something on my heart, one word: Why? I’ve never really asked myself this question before. Why do I volunteer? Why do I come back year after year? Why do I love doing what I do?
I’ve thought recently about the question of Why and have come up with a few things. In 9 years of being a volunteer at our church, under her direction, Dina has NEVER yelled at me. She has never expected me to be perfect. She always gives 100% of herself in the months leading up to VBS in June. I can always count on her having everything ready and not once has she ever forgotten something I might have needed. If she didn’t have something I was looking for, she knew how and where to get it.
If I could teach you anything today about being a volunteer, this is what I’d want you to know:
- Volunteers do not like to be scolded – publicly or otherwise. Remember, they are helping YOU.
- Volunteers are doing this for a reason; Ask us what our “Why” is.
- Always thank your Volunteers, either by simply saying the words, giving a gift or even handwriting a card.
- Ask your Volunteers back each year; Do not assume they will just show up.
- Make them feel important. Ask them about their family, their life and LISTEN.
- Be prepared so you can help them succeed.
- Let your Volunteers be in the front from time to time, giving them the chance to shine. Delegate.
- Ask your Volunteers if they need help by checking in from time to time. They like to know you care.
Volunteers, here are some things you need to know before committing:
- Do the best you can, knowing that you aren’t perfect. The only perfect person died on a cross.
- Figure out why you are volunteering. What do you hope to get out of it? Who do you hope to serve?
- Find out if this volunteer opportunity is something you are gifted at. You may be asked to do something that is outside your realm and may make you uncomfortable if you don’t do it well.
- Thank your leader for allowing you the opportunity to serve. How often do they get a “thank you”?
- If you can’t help, it’s ok to say no. Give the leader a reason. If you feel there’s more of a story to share regarding the no, ask them to sit down for a few minutes to discuss.
- Share your life with others. Open your heart to being transformed physically, mentally and spiritually by what you are doing to serve.
For almost 10 years, Dina Newsom has been the VBS leader at our church. In the beginning she served as a volunteer just like everyone else. Each year, she returns because VBS is what she loves. God has definitely used her gifts and her talents to make this ministry grow exponentially. She is now a paid member of our staff, she organizes VBS for students to teach in Hong Kong and now for the first time ever, our local program will be held two separate weeks in June because the program has grown so much.
Want to see Dina and her amazing group of volunteers in action this year? On April 1st the sign ups begin for 2015 Group VBS Everest. Don’t wait, don’t even think twice because the sessions fill quickly. Here’s a link to register: https://www.groupvbspro.com/vbs/ez/bslcomaha/gpgs/Home.aspx
Thank you Dina for being a mentor and role model to me (even though I’m older!). As I begin a new ministry for my job, I can only model everything you have done for your volunteers. What I love most about you my friend is your love for God, His Kingdom, His people and each time that you share a hug with me, you can feel His love surrounding me too.
Here’s to your 10th year of VBS!!!