Things are tough for so many people right now. We are facing lay offs, cut backs and a tight economy. Sometimes we may wonder why we should be volunteering at a time like this. We feel pulled by stress and overwhelmed by tension; there is little left over to give to our church communities. Volunteering may, however, be our saving grace.

1. It helps us to stay “other focused.” It is so easy (and perfectly reasonable) to get caught up in our own struggles in times like these. We may feel depressed and find it difficult to have the energy to work in our church. Ironically, giving to others helps energize us. When we are focused on the needs of others we tend to spend less time worried about our own issues.

2. Volunteer experience is still experience. Volunteering is a form of work. It can be put on a resume and help keep you current in a time of diminishing employment possibilities. I was recently able to spin my degree (from 25 years ago) and all my volunteer teaching into a substitute teaching position in my school district. It has turned out to be the perfect job for me, teaching when I am available and I am on the same schedule as my children. My volunteering experience made me employable. Teens can also get real work experience by being classroom aids.

3. You may be able to use volunteer work to get a better tax return. If you volunteer and drive as part of that (to and from, or as part of the work itself), you can count that on your taxes. Ask your accountant for details to see if you qualify.

4. Volunteering reminds us how rich we really are. When family finances are tight we may forget that real riches have nothing to do with money or things. Our faith, our love, our gifts are the things that are true riches. When we volunteer we can share what we do have and be reminded of how blessed we are to have those riches.

5. Some churches offer financial incentives to volunteer. At two churches where I have taught faith formation, they wave the fee for religion classes for the volunteers. This is currently saving us about sixty dollars a year. In this economy, every penny helps. If your church is having problems staffing their faith formation teacher positions, approach the director to see if this idea is a possible solution.

6. It’s the right thing to do. We are all called to be good stewards and teaching the faith is one way to do that. Especially if you have had to cut back on financial contributions to your church, you can tithe by giving your time to your church community instead of money. I guarantee the rewards will outweigh the cost.