During the summer of 1986, I was working in a grocery store produce department while attending college.  This job came with the unbelievable benefit of one unpaid week of vacation per year.  So when that week came in July, I had a decision to make.  Instead of going to the beach for sun and surf, I instead made the strategic decision to teach 2nd graders in Vacation Bible School at Calvary Baptist Church in Marietta, GA.

That one decision put me on a path that I continue on to this very day.  With the exception of two paid staff positions, I have served as a volunteer at my local church for the better part of the past 25 years.

One thing I’ve noticed at sporting events is that those in the stands pay to be there.  Those on the field…GET PAID!  In a similar manner, there is compensation and privileges alloted for those who courageously get out of stands, step on the field, and become volunteers.  Here is what my personal compensation package has looked like over a quarter of a century:

  1. Greater Purpose – There are a number of important places to serve in the religious and non-profit worlds.  The needs are numerous.  As for me, I made the strategic decision to serve at my church because it was there where my efforts could be better leveraged and result in someone’s life changing for eternity.  They could become redeemed.
  2. Greater Perspective – Serving others has allowed me to focus on larger issues and others rather than always on myself.
  3. Greater Relationships – There is relational bonding that happens when you’re “in the foxhole” and serve together.  I have made literally hundreds of personal connections and lifelong friends because of my volunteering efforts. 
  4. Greater Self-Image – It may sound egotistical but there is a healthy pride that comes from serving others.  I just feel better about myself when my life is used in a way that matters and makes a difference.  If you’ve served others, you know what I mean.
  5. Greater Relief – Living an internally focused life benefits no one.  Serving others relieves suffering, benefits the under-resourced, meets the needs of the marginalized, provides hope, and improves the quality of people’s lives.

I am so privileged not to have a lesser calling.  Here’s the irony – we all have that same higher calling.  Wherever you serve, thank you for the difference you are making in the lives of others.  Tomorrow I will post the remaining 5 items of the list.

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