Volunteering vs. Serving

Perhaps you will argue that this post is all about semantics.
But sometimes, semantics affect our thinking and the way we do things a lot more than you’d think.

Why not take a moment and reflect on what these two words (serving and volunteering) mean to you? Why not reflect on how they may be different to you, if at all?

Modeling after Ginghamsburg Church, we started using the term “Unpaid Servants” over “Volunteers.”
And for me, here’s the differences. (And as always, I could be wrong, but it’s my opinions and my blog. muhaha).

When I think of volunteering, I think of helping out with a cause, because I want to.
I also know that my volunteering schedule is dependent on how busy I am. Though I wouldn’t put it this way, but put it bluntly and truthfully, I volunteer when it’s a bit more easier (read: convenient) for me. I volunteer when I want, for what I want, and however long I want.  (Even for who I want). And yes, I don’t feel too terribly bad when I walk away feeling good about myself for the volunteer work that I did.

When I think about being a servant and servanthood, I have different understandings. Whereas I may volunteer  because I want to, I serve because I need to. Volunteering may be a choice, but serving is a calling. As a Christ-follower, I am called to serve. There’s a certain freedom that comes with volunteering, but serving… I’m a servant of Christ. How many times does Paul uses phrases like “Slave of Christ?”

So to me, there’s a different feeling of meaning between volunteering and serving.
And, maybe many people take church and serving at church a bit lightly, because we view it as volunteering, and not a calling.

Call it semantics, however I think we set a different set of expectations when we start calling people “unpaid servants” instead of “volunteers.”

One thought on “Volunteering vs. Serving

  1. I found this blog as I was contemplating the difference between “serving” and “volunteering”. I have the same inclination as what Joseph expressed and want to commend the writing. I would simply add my conclusions led me to understand “volunteering” as conveniently helping – if it fits my schedule and what I am doing and what I want to do, then I’ll help. But as soon as I need to leave, even if the event is not over, I’m out. That is helping when convenient to me. Serving on the other hand requires sacrifice. I’m willing to voluntarily sacrifice my time, schedule, talents, forego other opportunities all for the good of the cause or organization. People who are willing to sacrificially volunteer their time and efforts and have a cost to what they give, that is serving. I believe that is what being a Christ-like servant and servant leadership is about.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s