It’s almost time for a new year, and for many of us, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are a time of reflection and planning for the next 12 months. We consider what we need to do differently, what we should let go of, new projects to begin and perhaps even ask God what He would have us do with the next 365 days of our lives.
Helping others through volunteering often makes an appearance on that list.
But how? Churches, nonprofit organizations and ministries are always begging for volunteers, but many people aren’t able to volunteer their time during work hours, some are busy raising children and others struggle with illness or financial hardship. We meet so many people with good intentions who talk a lot about getting involved, but never seem to find the right niche. They end up volunteering once and never return because it’s not realistic to fit traditional volunteering into their schedule. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Fortunately, serving God and others doesn’t always look the same for everyone. God commands Christians to serve the poor and downtrodden over and over again throughout Scripture, so it’s worth considering all the ways you can obey that command — even if life is busy. These tips come from the context of Ransom Ministries, but you can apply these principles to any type of service.
5 tips for better volunteering in 2017
- It’s better to do something small and realistic on a regular basis than make a large commitment you can’t fulfill. It’s also better to do something small than to do nothing at all. Check out the volunteer opportunities below to see the ways you can be involved.
- Remember that helping people requires relationships. We so often make the mistake of believing poverty means people need money or things, but most people who find themselves in poverty get there by not having a support system. To truly help those in need rise out of poverty, donate yourself, not just your stuff.
- If time to build relationships with those in need is not a resource you have, serve in ways that make it easier for those who do. Sometimes an organization’s greatest needs require unglamorous work that no one thinks of signing up to do: organizing storage spaces, cleaning offices, performing computer maintenance, filing paperwork, fundraising and more. Contact the organization you want to serve and ask them what no one on their staff has time to do. This is a great way to serve one time and really make a difference.
- If you can volunteer regularly, spend some time just listening and learning, even if you have valuable experience and ideas to offer. Imagine starting a new job and immediately flooding your coworkers with ways they should do everything differently. Overwhelming! Instead, learn how things are currently done, and after trust and understanding are mutually established, begin making suggestions.
- Donate money. Donate resources. Raise funds and awareness. Some people are called to give their time, and some are called to give money (what we find is that people usually start with one and it eventually leads to the other). If you’re a high-powered executive who works 80 hours a week, you can’t make time to volunteer on a regular basis. But you can provide much needed funding to make an organization’s work possible. If you’re a busy stay-at-home mom, you can’t bring your two under two to volunteer, and you may not have the monetary resources to donate, but you could have your friends and family collect needed supplies. Others have the valuable gift of fundraising! Use your connections and networks to raise awareness for the organization you love to generate sustainable sources of funding and volunteers.
2017 Volunteer opportunities with Ransom Ministries
Weekly/regular volunteer opportunities
Ransom Cafe: volunteer once a week to help us serve lunch at the location of your choice. Help us set up, serve and break down in addition to building relationships with guests and other volunteers. [4-5 hour commitment, once a week]
Ransom ReProgram, Champion: a Champion walks through our 8-week job training program one-on-one with a student. There will be two ReProgram classes in 2017: one starting Jan. 31 and one starting in September. Champions are an extremely important element of the program and are available to their student via phone, text and in person. Champions often help students do things parents would normally help their teenage children accomplish: getting driver’s licenses, opening bank accounts, applying for colleges or training programs, navigating relationships and making life decisions. Champions commit to stay in touch with their student for at least six months after graduation. [relational commitment, time varies depending on needs of student]
Ransom ReProgram, Classroom Facilitator: classroom facilitators commit to attend ReProgram classes for 8 weeks on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. They help the instructor facilitate the class, lead small group discussions, help with computers and build relationships with all of the students. While not as intimate as a Champion-student relationship, classroom facilitators help the class bond together as a whole and enable the instructor to focus only on teaching. [2-5 hour commitment, 1-2 times per week for 8 weeks]
Ransom RePurpose: RePurpose allows ReProgram students to work in our wood shop on Wednesdays and Fridays to make crosses and other items that we sell to the public. Students are paid $10/hour for their work and receive a check at graduation. We need people who can help guide them in creating their products. [2-5 hour commitment, 1-2 times per week for 8 weeks]
One-time/Irregular volunteer opportunities
Ransom Cafe: Provide a meal for a location! Ransom Ministries provides food for four cafes: Covenant Presbyterian (average of 100 people served), Christ United Methodist (average of 50 people served), the Hangar of West Mobile Baptist (average of 40 people served) and First Baptist Theodore (average of 40 people served). You can help tremendously by providing a meal for any of these cafes anytime. [1-2 hour commitment, one time or regular – up to you]
Clean Machine: The Clean Machine is a portable laundry and shower trailer that serves every other week at First Christian Church (Monday) in Midtown and once per month at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Crichton (Tuesday) and First Baptist Church Theodore (Thursday). Clean Machine volunteers have the unique ability to talk with patrons for long periods of time while they are waiting for their laundry to be done. [3-4 hour commitment, one time, once a month or every other week, depending on location]
General office help: Come to our office in Chickasaw and help us clean and/or organize. [1-2 hour commitment, one time or regular]
Ransom ReProgram, community roundtable / employer roundtable: During the 8-week class, one session is devoted to a community roundtable, in which people representing organizations or businesses that can provide assistance to our students present their resources. Another session, the employer roundtable, allows students to hear directly from employers about what kind of people they hire and keep. [1-2 hour commitment, one time]
Ransom ReProgram, resume helper: One of the graduation requirements for ReProgram students is a resume. Resumes are often very difficult for our students, so it’s nice to have one helper per student if possible! [1-2 hour commitment, one time]
Ransom ReProgram, meals: Provide a meal and join us for lunch during one of our 8-week classes! [2-3 hour commitment, one time or regular]
- Large bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash (no bars of soap, please)
- Towels, washcloths, scrubs
- Cleaning supplies
- Three-compartment to-go trays
- Commercial-size aluminum pans and lids
- Salad (can always be added to menu)
- Bread (can always be added to menu)
- Large quantities of rice, noodles, spaghetti sauce, meat, etc.
- When donating food, please call us first at 251-751-0044 to make sure it’s something we can use. 🙂
- Copy paper
- Toilet paper
- Paper towels
- Paper plates and plastic utensils
- Plastic cups
- Cleaning supplies
RePurpose supplies (crosses)
- Scrap wood
- Wood glue
- Hangers and wires