Am I a Servant or Volunteer?

It’s that time of year again … Fall. The time of Harvest Festivals, fundraisers, and the ever-present plea for help in ever conceivable arrangement of volunteering. From PTO to Children’s Church to Senior Class Adviser to Local Women’s Shelter; everyone needs help and the needs are real.

This makes me wonder though, are we servants or volunteers. There’s a difference.

The primary difference to me is timing. Servants serve in the timeline and area of need.

Volunteers serve on their own timeline and in their own area of interest.

Maybe it is splitting hairs, maybe not. Let me illustrate it this way. As an artist, if my church was looking for people to serve/volunteer by teaching art classes after school and I got to schedule the times around my busy schedule, that would be volunteering.

If they asked me to mow yards in 100 degree weather when I had already planned to go fishing, that would be serving. See the difference?

Spending an already free Saturday attending an outing you really wanted to go to anyway, but now as a chaperone: Volunteer.

Dropping everything to assist storm victims instead of going on your vacation: Service.

Too often my “service” is couched in things that interest me and fit into my schedule. I do them “if I have time.” One thing I learned as a pastor is that rarely does anyone need to be ministered to in a life crisis during my office hours. Doing it anyway is service.

I can’t speak for everyone, hey, I can’t speak for anyone except myself, but I know for a fact it is good for my soul to seek opportunities to SERVE over and above, maybe in place of, volunteering alone. It stretches me, grows me, makes me see the world differently. I don’t see Jesus doing a great number of “carpentry missions” in the New Testament.

If my schedule gets too full and something has to go, I think it should be the volunteering, not the service. At least that’s true for my own sanctification.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about people utilizing both their spiritual gifts and their given talents to serve the body. (In fact, I even believe those talents are placed there by God, more on that later) But let’s call it what it is.

Volunteering is awesome. Service is awesome. Both are needed, but have varied impact on the one serving or volunteering.

Sometimes we need volunteers. Other times we need servants. I pray our volunteering leads us into a deeper spirit of service.