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Make Room for Volunteering

  • Debra Bell Columnist, author and conference speaker
  • 2003 8 Jul
Make Room for Volunteering

My daughters and I just concluded a stint as volunteers for an after-school tutoring program for inner-city kids. We plan to continue again next year when it resumes with the re-opening of school. It's been awhile since I made room for this sort of thing in our schedule, and I'm freshly reminded of how rewarding it can be, as well as how dependent so many ministries are on our voluntary contributions.

It's very easy to insulate ourselves from the needs of the world around us. I know home schooling can quickly become very narrowly focused around academics at our house. But that's not really why my husband and I are home schooling - that isn't a primary goal. We are more concerned with our children's character development and spiritual growth. Well, volunteering can certainly facilitate both.

Years ago, my husband and I started a network of pregnancy care centers. My greatest surprise was how much we received back from our meager investment of time and resources into these women's lives. Foremost, it really motivated my spiritual growth. Once seated across from a young woman in an unplanned pregnancy, I quickly realized I didn't have any idea how to meet all of her needs - but God did -and I needed to spend more time with Him so that the words I shared were His. All the other volunteers made the same comment. Volunteering at the pregnancy center increased our dependency upon God, and as a result we were fruitful in our ministry. Our kids were quite young at that time, and their contributions were often following along while mom or dad tackled their areas of responsibility. But as soon as our sons were old enough - actually only 12 - they were organizing their friends into groups for the annual Walk for Life that largely underwrote the ministry. I've always been grateful that my kids' earliest memories revolve around our hours of helping to get those pregnancy care centers started.

This time around, it is my daughters, Kayte and Kristen, who are making the greatest contribution. The young kids prefer to be tutored by the teenagers - not a well-seasoned, home-school mom! I was also delighted to see several other home-school moms at this center the first time I showed up - and with their elementary age children with them. Their kids played and read and made friends. I thought, what a wonderful value to reinforce in their children at such at early age. I hope they do not let the tyranny of the "academics" overcome the eternal value of investing in people's lives.

As you evaluate your plans for next year, consider where God might be calling you and your family to minister. I have a special burden for these inner-city kids. And I think home schoolers are loaded with the skills and resources to make a big difference. I was quite astonished by their delays in basic skills, especially reading (and the kids in the program are selected because they are the motivated learners). Their schools are dangerous places; their homes are almost all broken; the resources they have available for learning are minimal.

Even though academics aren't our motivation for involvement, my own daughters are learning a great deal by figuring out how to teach someone else to read or solve basic arithmetic problems, especially Kristen who isn't that much older than the kids she is tutoring. And the kids are so grateful for our small involvement. They are eager for hugs every time we show up and certainly far more enthusiastic about seeing us than many of our own family members!

Once again it is true -- we are receiving far more in return than we are giving. God is good to grace us with gifts to offer and to allow our participation in the demonstration of His love and care in people's lives, especially children's.

In His Sovereign Grace,


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