About two weeks ago as a church, we came together and put on Vacation Bible School for our community. One of the main ways that churches today gauge whether an event like that was successful is by numbers. If that is how I am going to determine whether VBS was a success or not, then it was just average. There are some major problems with this method: It fails to look at the heart of the individual child. It fails to see the impact over time. It fails to see how many spiritual seeds were planted.
It is very easy to feel like you aren’t making a difference when you volunteer at an event like VBS. I know what it is like being in the shoes of someone sacrificing time and energy into the church. Growing up, I served in many different roles in my home church. I have taught Sunday School, put together PowerPoint presentations for the service, been a youth leader, and been a part of the praise team. Many times during my years serving, I have felt burnt out and thought to myself, “Is it worth my effort? Am I really making a difference?”
It is difficult being a volunteer. Especially during the periods of time where you do not feel like you are making an impact. Those dishes in the sink at home are screaming at you while you stand around wasting time at church.
Then there’s that one kid who keeps acting up and just doesn’t seem to “get it.” By the end of class you feel like you just wasted a million words on a deaf person.
What about the person behind the scenes that doesn’t get very much recognition? The person who sits behind the sound board… the person who cleans up that mess that someone left behind after the service… the person who is all but invisible but still serves in some way in the church.
Looking back at VBS, I felt so blessed by all the people serving and sacrificing. We had people volunteering to help in the kitchen, volunteering to count the money, and volunteering to help with the kids. And I walked away from that week seeing the hands and feet of Jesus.
I was so thankful for each person’s willingness to serve no matter how small or insignificant the task was or in some people’s cases how massive the task was. That’s why I feel the need to write this post to all the volunteers out there.
Your efforts matter.
What is so very frustrating about volunteering is that often we do not get to see the fruit of our efforts. Kids come and go and then they are out of our lives forever.
“Did I impact these kids?”
“Did they learn something? Anything?”
“Did my efforts mean something?”
Our efforts in and of themselves are not enough to make an impact. It is not dependent on us to impact the hearts of the kids. That’s on God. Only HE has the power to open the eyes of their hearts (Ephesians 1:18). You can try to pour out all your knowledge onto these kids, or you can rely on God to give you the one message that is going to mean the most to them.
Change the question to, “Did I let the Holy Spirit use me this past week?”
When we give up control and make it about the one who does have the power to change hearts, then we will see God move. Truth be told though, most of the time we have no idea if God worked in their lives, and we probably never will know.
One story I love to tell is one that I heard from one of my professors at Lancaster Bible College, whom I will refer to as Sally. She told us of a time when she had to undergo surgery and she was terrified. There Sally sat in a wheelchair waiting to go into the Operating Room realizing that life could be over for her. However, in that moment, a picture popped into her head that she hadn’t thought about in years. It was a picture of God’s hands holding a clock. “All time is in His hands.” Sally had seen that picture when she was a child in Sunday School, and now at the most appropriate of times, God used that picture to give her comfort and peace.
We never know the impact that one lesson will make in the life of a child. God may use an image, a phrase, a face to remind us of a truth when we need it most.
What about the volunteers who do not have direct contact with the kids? How does God use them?
Some people would rather be in the shadows running PowerPoint or in the kitchen preparing food. That doesn’t mean that God isn’t using them. God may have gifted them with different gifts. If God has gifted you with the gift of serving, use that gift. That is how you are going to best glorify Him! Do not try to be someone that you’re not. Whenever we try to fill a role that God didn’t intend us to fill, all we are doing is getting in the way. Be thankful for the gifts you have, and encourage other people who are gifted in areas that you aren’t.
One of the joys of being a pastor is seeing God use believers. I cannot tell you all the times I have been blessed by people who I have seen serving God with all of their hearts. What an encouragement it is to have Christians using the gifts that God has given them.
Thank you to everyone who gives up their time and energy to serve. Whether it be at VBS, during the Sunday Service or whatever ministry you are involved in. God is using you even though you may not see fruit. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9). God is working in you and through you even when you don’t see it. Let Him.