For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good work, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

On any given Sunday morning, the true spirit of First Church shines through the faces of those who come to serve. Greeters are stationed at the entrances to welcome worshipers as they arrive. For many new visitors, the hospitality of our Membership volunteers behind the Welcome Desk makes a lasting impression. These spunky individuals are trained to respond to a vast array of queries. One of these volunteers is Nancy Near, a former schoolteacher who says that her life has been enriched in many ways.

“Volunteering creates a sense of fulfillment and belonging, and connects you through new friendships,” she said. “I was advised to volunteer when my husband died; by focusing on others, I focused less on myself.” Shortly after becoming a member of First Church, Nancy joined the Membership Committee. She has also been involved in Women’s Ministry, various pastor nominating committees, and served as an ordained elder. After 20+ years volunteering behind the Welcome Desk, she said, “What a blessing it has been to work here alongside all the other dedicated volunteers. It has enhanced my faith and increased my thankfulness.”

On Sundays, the Visitors Kiosk is staffed by Membership Coordinator Rebecca Harley and several serving elders eager to make visitors feel welcomed and appreciated. Even after nearly 10 years, Rebecca still insists that all first-time visitors receive a personal note in the mail from the church to further express recognition of their visit.

“I view this ministry as a form of hospitality,” she said.“It’s way beyond spreadsheets and numbers. It goes to the core of what we are all about—welcoming and nurturing.” Rebecca is also our Volunteer Coordinator. The Epistle asked her how many volunteers currently serve at First Church.

“I don’t think I could give an accurate number,” she said.“For example, six months out of the year we schedule 32 ushers a week for just the 9AM and 11AM services, with some serving multiple times. The Welcome Desk has 8-10 committee members who rotate shifts; there are also greeters, but all these are only a portion of the church’s volunteer force. First Thrift alone has hundreds volunteering throughout the year, some for just a few hours a week.”

I bet if we could list an accurate number it would be mind-boggling. Our Sacred Arts Ministry includes eight choirs, a drama ministry, a banner ministry, an art gallery, the worship and concert ushers, a floral arranging team, and acolytes. Nearly every ministry of our church utilizes volunteers, including Administration, Christian Education, Communications, Family, Finance, Media, Men’s, Women’s, Missions, Visitation, and the BookCenter. Of course, all committee members, elders, and deacons donate their time and talents, too.

“The list of volunteer opportunities is endless,” Rebecca added, “and even though we have many church members already involved, there is always room and the NEED for more.”

So, what makes a good volunteer? What are the qualities that make someone a good prospect? General enthusiasm? A servant’s heart? A sense of humor? A kindly manner?

“All these are important,” Rebecca said. “That’s not to say you couldn’t volunteer if you lacked one. Often I find that people are reluctant to try something new, such as ushering, but once they do, I hear comments on how rewarding the experience has been. They actually seem surprised and enjoy being on the ‘front lines,’ interacting with members and guests. That tells me that you never know what kind of impact you might have on any given Sunday by simply smiling and handing out a bulletin.”

So it all boils down to a smile? Really?

For church member Margaret Winn, volunteering is pretty much her life blood. From beach cleanup and saving the gopher tortoise to serving on the Banner Committee and working at First Thrift Shop, she has done it all for several reasons.

“Years ago, I first started volunteering in order to make friends,” she said. “Today it’s to make a difference and because that is what [Christ] would have us do. The greatest gift to give and to receive can be the simple gift of a smile and acceptance and friendship, and every one of us has access to those.”

So maybe it does boil down to a smile. But a person could smile all day long. Why volunteer? Membership Chair Janice Croley has some thoughts on that.

“There are many reasons, but just a few are to be part of a community, to make a new friend, to make a difference in someone else’s life or your own, to learn a new skill, or to just have fun,” she said. “As we live our lives, God continues to bless us with gifts that we can share with others. And, a good way to share our gifts of time, energy, and talent is through volunteering.

“First Church is extremely blessed by our faithful volunteers,” Janice said, “but the need for many more will always continue throughout all of our various ministries.”

by RJ Flower-Opdycke, Co-editor

If you would like more information on volunteering, contact Membership/Volunteer Coordinator Rebecca Harley or Membership Committee Chair Janice Croley. (Please see our volunteer “classified ads” on page 26.)