Presented by the Commission on Christian Action, adopted by the delegates to the 117th Covenant Annual Meeting.
Two thousand one was the International Year of Volunteers. Volunteering1 was heralded as a fundamental building block of civil society and volunteers were praised for their positive impact on community. And yet, statistics show that as the need for volunteers is growing, the number of those volunteering is not keeping pace, resulting in increased burdens for volunteer organizations and those they serve. In 2002, what do these developments say to us as Christians and as members of the Evangelical Covenant Church?
Ministry is one response to God’s love. Having been given new life in Christ (John 3:15, 36; 10:10) and the gifts needed to build his kingdom (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:7-13), we voluntarily “minister” by following the “servant ministry” example of Jesus Christ. The gospel stories show how Jesus responded to the needs of people by listening, teaching, touching, and healing. Matthew 25:35-36 elevates the importance of responding to the needs of people—it aligns action with the coming of the Son of Man and inheritance of the kingdom:
I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me.
Our servanthood finds expression in volunteering with those within and those outside the household of faith.
Christian volunteering is distinctive in that it is an intentional response to Christ’s sacrificial love: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). We will, out of gratitude and love, desire to carry temporal and spiritual blessings to others. The love of Christ constrains us, then, to be volunteers (2 Corinthians 5:14a).
Article III of the Covenant Constitution outlines our purpose: “to make known the good news of saving faith in Jesus Christ, to encourage a Christlike life among its congregations and their members, and to carry out Christ’s redeeming work of love, mercy, and justice in the world. The Evangelical Covenant Church relies on the ministry of volunteers to fulfill its mission or purpose.”
A study of Covenant history reveals the witness of volunteers who have faithfully served Christ and our denomination.
We declare, as followers of Jesus Christ, that the act of volunteering is both a significant expression of citizenship in God’s kingdom and identification with those he has come to save (1 John 3:18-19, The Message).
We declare that, for Christians, volunteering is ministry—the act of expressing God’s love in meeting the needs of people who know him or could be reached for him. We further declare that ministry not only embraces what we do inside or for the church, but also in our neighborhood, the community, for our province or state, and in the world at large.
We declare that effective management of volunteer programming in the church involves working with and through people, in an environment of grace and love, to accomplish goals for God’s glory.
We, the delegates to the 2002 Covenant Annual Meeting, call upon our churches and fellow believers to take the following steps of action to strengthen volunteer ministry for God’s glory:
1) We call every Covenanter to prayerfully evaluate his or her volunteer commitment of time and talent.
2) We invite Covenant churches to prayerfully seek God’s guidance either to identify and establish at least one new ministry, or to update and improve an existing program that relies on the ministry of volunteers. This new or updated ministry could be established in partnership with another church, organization, or group.
3) We call every Covenant church to recognize that the management of volunteer ministries is a serious business that demands prayerful and prudent attention, and further call every Covenant church to review its systems for the management of church-volunteer programs by 2004. This review may include volunteer recruitment, selection, placement, orientation, education, supervision, support, legal dimensions, evaluation, and recognition.2
4) Recognizing that the Evangelical Covenant Church has valuable volunteer-based ministry programs such as Covenant Mission Connection, urban-ministry internships, and camp-volunteer opportunities, we call denominational leadership to prayerfully consider new or expanded full-time volunteer opportunities for post-high-school Covenanters.
1. Throughout the resolution, the meaning of the terms volunteer and volunteering are based on Webster’s definition of volunteer: “a person who enters or offers to enter into any service of his/her own free will.”
2. For reference, please see Marlene Wilson, How to Mobilize Church Volunteers (Augsburg/Fortress, 1990).