Countless studies that have shown that volunteering has many benefits, both physically and psychologically, including:
- Reducing stress
- Lowering blood pressure
- Decreasing the risk of dementia
- Lessening anxiety and depression
- Providing overall greater happiness
- Cultivating social connections and relationships
- Improving our sense of well-being
Volunteering moves you outside your everyday trials and tribulations and distracts you from your own internal problems. One of the best ways to deal with the issues and challenges of everyday life is to engage in simple acts of kindness and reach out to help others.
You can make helping others a daily practice by following the golden rule found in Matthew 7:12 “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Think about some of the organizations that exist as self-help groups, where a defining feature of the group is people helping each other. Whether they are trying to lose weight, stop smoking, cope with grief, or any number of other challenges the core process is helping others so you can help yourself.
So in order to help ourselves, we should start by helping others. Finding opportunities to volunteer is as close as your church. If you are part of a community that volunteers, you’ll have natural opportunities to get involved. Once you get roped into volunteering for the first time, there is often a light bulb that turns on and you are looking forward to the next opportunity to help.
When you think about volunteering, keep in mind some of the following thoughts:
- Focus your efforts on something you are passionate about. That passion helps you feel engaged and interested.
- Find a way to use your talents and skills the most effective way possible. Some people may be good at preparing meals, but if your ‘thing’ is spreadsheets, then find an organization than needs a volunteer to create spreadsheets.
- Just DO IT. You don’t have to be perfect or prepared or comfortable, just jump in with both feet and a good attitude.
- Get to know others in the group. If you are all volunteering at the same place, you must have a lot in common and volunteering with friends makes the work more enjoyable.
- Have fun – make volunteering a joy not drudgery.
Serving others moves you forward in your spiritual journey. When you give of your time and talent you are modeling Jesus. God can easily do anything without our help at all, but he desires to work through us.
Think about the story of the loaves and the fishes from Matthew 14:15-20:
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.
Look at Jesus’ response: “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” Jesus could have fed all 5,000 people in an instant, but He wanted the apostles to be a part of the miracle. He wanted them to understand that His plan was to work through them and enable them to do more than they were capable of doing on their own. In the same way, He wants us to experience first-hand what God is doing so that we can better understand who He is and how much He loves his us…His people.
It is also interesting to note that after everyone was fed there were twelve baskets leftover – one for each apostle. They gave five loaves and two fish and they each received more than they gave. In the same way when we volunteer and work for God we get so much more than we could ever give. When we offer what we have, He will use it to accomplish amazing things.
Everybody has something to offer even if it seems small compared to the need. What do you have to offer? How should you join God at work?
However you choose to volunteer, you will benefit. We recognize our own abundance when we share it. Giving to others come back around to bless us.
Luke 6:38~ “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”