Volunteering has been part of my life for a couple of decades now. I didn’t really do much serving as a kid, but got motivated in my 20’s, with my first ongoing volunteer experience at a women’s shelter and support organization. I can’t remember what got me motivated. (Perhaps I just heard their call for volunteers—or maybe I was drawn in by their purpose of helping abused women and strengthening single moms, which I was at the time.) Whatever my motivation, it was the start of an inner drive to contribute and help in my community and the individuals around me.
As a believer in Jesus, I know that this inner desire to serve others comes from my relationship with God. It’s a call every believer should be following in their own unique way. I can also speak from experience that not every volunteer opportunity is right for every person. I had a period of time in my life of two-to-three years when my community service activities were a bit unbalanced and not the ideal use of my skills. I held the secretary role (among other roles in planning and administration) in a service group, was on the board and organized membership files and administration for the co-op preschool my boys went to, helping with other random events and activities as they came up. I wanted to help out; and when I heard of a need, I usually responded.
As I look back now, I realize how my community service (along with my family and business roles) were wearing me a bit thin. But most important, I wasn’t energized by my volunteer roles. I wanted to be involved in my community and help organizations and people, in general—but the serving that I was doing was not really in-line with my God-given gifts.
I know better now that I need to choose work—whether it’s paid or unpaid—that has a direct connection to what I have discovered is God’s plan for my life.
Now, I sit on a board for a non-profit organization and help organize live performances for families (specifically families with kids ages 12 and under). While I’ll quickly share that there are some aspects of this volunteer role that I don’t love, I am using many of the skills that I’ve identified as my God-given gifts; and the organization’s mission is very much in-line with my personal values. This role does energize me!
Guiding my boys to get involved and help out is a high priority for me right now. My 11- and 8-year-old are relatively helpful when motivated, but I’m focused on getting them involved in activities that can help both them and me realize what their gifts and interests are. Just as we are all looking to instill good values in our children, I want to instill in them a tender heart for helping others.
Cruz, my 11-year-old, started me off on this journey just a couple of months ago when he noticed a call for volunteers at our library. In an ideal world, I would have explored volunteer opportunities with him a year or two ago. But I’m happy and a bit surprised that he came up with the idea first! It shows that he’s got that inner drive to contribute. Or it may be that he thought it would be a good reason to go into town more. Either way he’s on the right track to make a community connection and be of service to others.
Since then, I’ve been in brainstorming mode to discover all the other ways that my boys can be helpful with no monetary reward involved. Naturally, I reached out to other homeschool moms and got some firsthand insight into what their kids have done. I’ve gotten lots of inspiration from the homeschool community that you can benefit from as well in What Homeschoolers are Doing in Their Community.
You’ll also want to check out our creative brainstorming list of What Kids Can Do to Serve. It’s a collection of websites, resources and ideas for kid-style community service and involvement, which includes some of the more outside-the-box approaches that come from true brainstorming activity.
While my boys are young I want to encourage them to try a variety of serving opportunities, but over time I want them to identity what God’s vision is for their lives and help out in the ways that are most aligned with the way He created them. That’s where they’ll be most effective and grow mentally and spiritually. As I pray daily, I look to Him to guide me in the way each of my boys should go, learning their individual qualities and how to foster our God’s best in them.
Steph has been building businesses, mostly from home, for over 10 years, motivated by her strong determination that her two youngest boys would be educated at home. She works for The Old Schoolhouse® on the Canadian team, and also coaches entrepreneurs to start and grow their business from home. Her and her family are all comfortably nestled in the trees in Central Ontario. She loves being a home-body and building up her permaculture property. Learn more about Steph at www.creatingworkandplay.com