Sorry about missing a May post. I've been busy with moving back to Kansas, preparing to be wed, continuing to work on my dissertation, and doing some work for Creative Communications for the Parish. Because I'm lazy, this post, therefore continues the presentation of things I discovered in my research, and the point is fairly simple. If you're a public leader of a Lutheran congregation in the United States, chances are that the people in your congregation are doing a lot more than you think.
Levels of Volunteerism
In 2013, the United States Department of Labor published a press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which noted that 26.5% of the population volunteered.* It's apparent that the congregations involved in my research volunteer far more than the average, with 70% of those who responded to the congregational survey volunteering at least once in the previous four weeks.
The same report cites the median for annual volunteer hours of those who volunteered at 50 hours a year. Using conservative estimates, the members of the four congregations studied provide 1,626 hours of volunteer hours per month. That's 19,512 hours of volunteer work a year!
To translate the flabbergasting levels of volunteerism better: that's 813 days! That's just over 116 weeks! That's over two years of volunteer time in one year across just four congregations!!
Of the sixty-one people who reported their per month volunteer hours in the congregational survey, the median monthly volunteer hours was 21.7. Extrapolated over a year, that may be as much as 260 volunteer hours from sixty-one people! Again, well above the national average.
Vocation & Volunteerism
This level of volunteerism is vocation of some kind. The people of these congregations are responding to some relationship or relationships in their lives that calls them to volunteer at incredibly high levels.
Unfortunately, I did not know this when starting my research, so I did not ask any questions along these lines:
- Which god is being worshiped?
- Who or what is being trusted through these actions?
- To whom are people relating that drives or encourages them to such levels of volunteerism?
- How is volunteering a duty?
- How is volunteering a delight?
- How much of this level of volunteerism is a reflection of autolaborological fundamentalism?
- Are vocational identities in conflict? If so, with whom?
But they can be asked.
Pastors, your people are doing more than you think. You don't need to believe me or my research. You can find everything you need to look at what your own congregation does here. People understand that relationships matter and that doing things in or because of those relationships matter. But which relationship or relationships are calling your people into volunteering? I'm actually asking you. I don't know.
It will take some work to find out, but I think the Holy Spirit may be calling us pastors to preach something more. More what? That's what we need to listen for.
God is up to something in the lives of our people. Are we paying attention?