I can cut up a melon in minutes, core and slice a pear like a pro, roll and wrap a burrito before you can say, “egg and cheese and potato.” I can even run the industrial dish washer! How did I get so skilled? I volunteered to work in our church’s café.
Yes, this is the same eatery I complained about in my blog, “Carb Café.” The menu still mostly includes foods I cannot eat on my low-carb, sugar-free diet. At least they offer salads, paninis, and fruit cups now. I’m proud to say, Pete and I cut up all the fruit, at least on the Sundays we work.
I hadn’t planned to get this involved. Back in January, our Swazi team was offered a chance to make some money. If we volunteered in the kitchen for the month, all tips would go to support our mission trip. The catch? We had to be there at 6 a.m.!
Rolling out of bed at that hour, especially in January, the deepest, darkest month of winter, took some fortitude. We’d bundle up for the ten minute drive to church, then huddle by the door until someone came with a key to let us in.
Once inside, we’d quickly overheat, and off would come the coats and scarves, replaced by aprons and plastic gloves. At first, everything was confusing, but little by little we learned that the white knives were the sharpest, the cinnamon buns needed to cool before frosting, and the lids on the individual salsa and salad dressing cups had to be on tight. I began to feel as if I belonged.
When our month of servitude was over, I surprised myself by volunteering to work on a regular basis, one morning a month. Since my work hours are flexible, I also signed up to help during special events.
Pete and I have always been volunteers, both at church and in our community. I spent eleven years as a Colorado Master Gardener, putting in long hours for free. I’m currently the newsletter editor and webmaster for our local Audubon chapter, and I serve on the board. I also help set up for our church’s member class every month. Pete’s whole career could be characterized as “volunteer.” He certainly isn’t in ministry for the money! So why add to my commitments?
You may remember that for years, I’ve been frustrated by how few people I know at church. I had reached the point where I was ready to leave, to find a smaller congregation where I could make friends, when God provided us with an awesome small group. That solved the “I don’t know anybody” problem, but I still felt somewhat disconnected from the larger body. Well, it turns out that was my own fault.
Volunteering is how one “plugs in” and makes a church into a home. Sure, I’m just toasting paninis, shredding chicken, and wiping counters. I didn’t expect such a minor role to have such a major influence on my attitude. But suddenly I find myself caring more about all the other aspects of our church. I have a sense of ownership. It’s my church, not just a place I go on Sunday mornings to learn and worship.
I thought I didn’t have time to volunteer, but so far the only inconvenience is losing a few hours of sleep. We now go to bed pretty early on Saturday night. That “sacrifice” is well worth the new friends I’m making, the sense that my contribution matters, and the change in the way I view our church.
Not every church has a café, and not everyone is cut out to help in a kitchen, but there are plenty of other places to get involved. I guarantee the childcare program would be delighted with your offer to help. If you sing, there’s the choir or worship team. If you love to pray, there are prayer meetings. You can help single moms or dads, file papers in the church office, or greet people on Sunday mornings. Maybe you’ll have to eliminate another commitment to make time (or just give up a TV show!), but the rewards are worth it. Which part of Christ’s body are you?