Sunday, May 10, 2009

Volunteering vs. Service - What's the Difference?

I work with high schoolers who are very busy people. In my opinion they are too busy. They are overscheduled and underappreciated. Those who work hard to do well in school don't stop there. Many of these same kids also are involved in their churches, community organizations, and expand their reach to national and sometimes international projects.

In many areas teens are expected to log a predetermined amount of volunteer hours in order to qualify for a special program or as part of scholarship for college, or even to remain in an accelerated school environment like IB (International Baccalaurette). If they join a "service club" like Key Club or Interact,or are accepted into the National Honor Society (NHS), they are also expected to log a certain amount of volunteer hours. If they are in the school band or chorus program, attend an active church, or strive to go into a health profession it is a given that they will have many, many volunteer hours on their resumes by the time they graduate.

I just wonder what the point is. What's it all about?

Is there more to it than resume fodder? Is there more to it than qualifying for a scholarship?

It is said that when you volunteer it changes both those you volunteer for and yourself. As I watch our teens running crazy from here to there, I don't see any time set aside to process their experiences and allow it to change them. Filling out a "reflection form" after the event is not a true indicator of reflection and a changed heart.

Changed hearts lead to changed lives.

It's about attitude; it's all about attitude.

Consider these two statements. Picture your teen arriving at a location filled with those in need. Which statement would you rather hear them say?

"I'm here to volunteer. What do you want me to do?"

"I'm here to serve. How can I help you?"

An attitude of service is different than volunteering. We are working our kids so hard just to be able to answer a question on a college application or check a box on a form that I fear we've missed the point.

How can we help our teens to develop a heart for service in today's world? What the world needs is a servant for the duration, not a hero come to save the day.