People power in the church - volunteerism trends and charts

A church is people power more than technology power. Even when you have the budget for the technology, without the trained staff and relationships with the congregation that form the network of the community, a powerful app just will sit unused and be another decorative desktop icon.

The power of the church is made real as we connect in the mind of Christ with doing good deeds without the expectations of getting paid for it. Let's see how volunteers tend to engage with the church in doing that.

A quick summary

Federal statistics on volunteerism in the U.S. gives us a sense of who is showing up for work days and how to plan for tasks that volunteers are willing to perform. CNN recently published a general summary of the federal data on volunteerism which gives an overall secular view of how people give away their time. They highlighted that a quarter of U.S. adults share their time especially with food collection and distribution. Age, gender and ethnicity really didn't show too much difference or trends except maybe with Hispanics growing slightly over the last few years.

I thought the distribution of volunteers over the continental U.S. wasn't surprising since I've seen firsthand the efforts of the highest regions in my life. The strongest geographical area was the LDS rich states of Utah and Idaho and the next area was the central plains region of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Being born in Kansas, I've felt the kindness of people sharing their time even when they don't have many words to express it.

The charts

The Corporation for National & Community Service data showed about one-third of the volunteer activities were associated with religious organizations. But we know that it's not only churches that benefit from the charity work of Christians. It could be that the church you belong to doesn't have the kind of program that inspires the effort. Maybe what people are looking for could be something different that an entry-level position. Here's a chart of the types of organizations with volunteers:

Since the two next highest areas after religious were educational and community service, would the church benefit by reaching out with educational programs and civic service events?

Age and activities

Another useful chart was how the age groups split up into more generous or not. The couples with teenagers group may not be your first pick but the age group of 35-44 had the highest participation of the survey segments. Of course, that doesn't reveal how much time they put in, but certainly found it valuable to be a part of the effort. Another chart showing median time of volunteerism shows as the age groups get older, the more time is shared.

I was greatly encouraged to see the younger Generation Z kids (16-19) with a strong showing. Are there enough opportunities in our churches for these new civic leaders? We won't talk about the millennials here.

Another aspect of age was how over the last five years, the rate of the participation in the top groups has been declining a steady 3%. That's a disappointing trend and maybe associated with the similar trend of declining church attendance.

And finally, to help us understand what our generous and selfless people are interested in, is the chart of the activity types people have volunteered for.

The popular church rummage sale was almost as high as the food donations and charity suppers but really can you combine the data for the junk sale with a spaghetti dinner? Stronger categories that can't be broken up but might be combined are the teaching and mentoring groups. Guys like me like to do general labor so it ranked highly also. But the low rank of our music volunteers was surprising because what does it take to sing or some other musical support task? And that was even supplemented with the dustbin category of other.

As we continue to bring the kingdom of God into our lives, the works that we show others will be reflecting the Golden Rule that commands us to show love to others and will let our good deeds shine before others so that our Father may be glorified. In understanding this data, I pray that it may be of value to you.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal 6:9-10


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