By Justin Rossow
Going through pictures before my Father-in-law’s funeral, we came across about a half a dozen from the mid ‘90’s that show the two of us—me and my new Dad—refinishing an antique rocker together.
Dad had a long history of refinishing furniture; a skill he learned by doing with his own father. And that rocking chair was special. It had belonged to my own great-grandmother and I was planning on giving it, refinished, to my sister.
But something else makes those pictures even more special to me. If you look past the coveralls, the mop of curls, and the ridiculously skinny frame, you can see a moment of shared activity, the beginning of shared life that would make Jim more and more one of the most important men in my life.
Just being my wife’s dad made him a VIP in my book; but working together on a shared goal began a real relationship. As far as I can recall, that rocking chair was the first shared project, the first time we worked side by side. And it was an important step in developing an ongoing relationship.
Now, whenever I see my great-grandmother’s rocker I think not only of my sister and my own parents, but I think of Jim.
Almost every service-based organization, including the Church, struggles to recruit new volunteers. And every group with self-selecting participation, including the Church, faces the challenge of making people feel connected. The secret, I think, is that volunteering and connection, participation and relationship go hand and glove.
Participation and relationship go hand and glove.
If you are looking for a way to feel a deeper sense of belonging in your local worshiping community, find something—anything!—to do and do it. Don’t wait for the perfect fit. Don’t commit to anything for life. Just pick something that seems like it might work for you, roll up your sleeves, and jump in.
Better yet, invite someone you would like to know better to try it with you. It doesn’t matter whether you are setting up communion or working in the nursery, encouraging youth or writing content for the blog. Sharing service and life together is the foundation for real relationship. And God uses relationships to draw us closer not only to each other, but to Him.
And if you are looking to recruit volunteers for your area of ministry, whatever it is, remember your secret weapon: it’s not about the job, it’s about the relationship. Invite people into service in a way that builds community. Use existing relationships to invite multiple people at the same time. Give people permission to try, and to stop, working in your ministry area. Value the relationship and people will value your ministry.
It’s not about the job, it’s about the relationship.
Whether you are looking to get connected or trying to recruit volunteers, remember that relationships take time. A lot of water went under the bridge after my Dad and I refinished that chair together. There were many more shared jobs and events—the time he helped me choose a table saw, the time he accidentally lit a gas can on fire, the time our family went to China for his retirement party. But the journey of relationship begins with a small step, a common task, a moment of shared experience and service.
Looking back, the hours we shared sanding and gluing and staining and sealing were definitely work. But they were also the beginning of a deeper relationship.
Your church family is like that: it takes work to share life together, but the relationships last forever.
If you help lead a service group in our congregation, please contact Linda Thompson before September 1. We want to make sure you have a chance to connect with volunteers in your area, both new and old.