More Than "Just A Volunteer"

Esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:13

Friday I mentioned Anne Sullivan, the spectacular teacher who helped transform the world of Helen Keller. Anne said, "People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved." So true!

In this post I want to share some of the hidden "steps" taken by Scott Bradley, a great servant in the life of Spanish River Church. Scott and Diane, who came to SRC in 2002 when their daughter Sky was an infant, are moving to Seattle to be near family in this season of their lives.

The entire Bradley family serves Christ, but I wanted to highlight Scott's involvement today. I asked Scott to share his story with me. Here is some of what he said:

We moved to Florida in July, 2002, when Sky was two weeks old. I had retired from my career to be a stay-at-home dad and was looking for a church home where I could continue to serve His children while shepherding my family. We found SRC in August, and moved into the community the next July.

Diane and I both worked in the nursery after a few weeks. Later, I began to teach third grade Sunday School weekly--and have continued to do so for 12 consecutive years (this is my 34th year overall). I have also taught in R.A.P. briefly, and am frequently the large group lesson teacher. I am sad that Memorial weekend will be my last message.

During the first few years of teaching Sunday School, I observed that the system that Children's Ministry used to track attendance was inadequate and volunteered to update it. It took hundreds of evening hours over a couple of years, but we built a database that served their needs for many years. It is still used for some functions today.

I was nominated to be a deacon and served in that capacity. During that time I rewrote the deacon database from an electronic card file to a full featured benevolence system, including counselor reimbursement. I updated the deacon handbook and, as chair the third year, I made several changes that I believe continue today. I met some life-long friends through the diaconate, and got involved with some in a men's group, which I have led faithfully for seven or eight years.

When Sky was three and we registered her for school, I volunteered to serve one day a week. I was thinking of assisting a third grade math or computer teacher. Instead, I was asked to assist in a middle school robotics elective. We started a competitive robotics team and I am completing my tenth season as a co-coach. We have taken our teams to State nine times. Our team members are taught to boldly profess their faith in a context that generally frowns on religion. The few years we were allowed to host a qualifying tournament brought 100 students and 300 spectators onto our campus to witness a place that makes faith relevant. I love it.

By Sky's second year at SRCS, I became aware that many kids did not have prayer support at home. Prayer is very visible in every classroom, but not in every home. There was a group of four or five moms that met regularly to pray for the students; the vision God gave me was that we pray with the students and model prayer. We now have over 100 parents praying in the classroom each month, regular drop in prayer, and monthly prayer coffee with a devotion led by school leadership. I guided SRCS to our first Prayer Walk and See You At The Pole a few years ago. This year the number of students praying around the flag was huge, and the number of parents joining their kids for the Prayer Walk amazing.

Scott, Diane, and Sky have also taken an annual family mission trip to Nicaragua where Diane volunteers her medical expertise and Scott, Sky and others serve in a variety of ways. As he relayed his story, Scott told me,

It feels boastful to list how I’ve served, but I humbly thank Him for letting me be of use to Him.

One of the reasons Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians "to esteem them very highly in love because of their work," is because of the way the servants of Christ labored among them. Paul knew that those servants, like Anne Sullivan, like Scott, often labored unnoticed, or better, noticed only by God. There was a time to give public recognition.

I am incredibly grateful for and to Scott, Diane, and Sky. I appreciate their "labors of love" and their constant servant spirit. I also appreciate how they stand as great representatives of a church full of servants; each one so much more than "just a volunteer."

As I reflect on Scott's story, here a few lessons I've learned:

  1. Remember why we serve: God has been good to us.
    Scott told me, "I was convicted of my sinfulness and led to the Lord at 27 ... and immediately felt called to reach boys and girls with the Gospel of Jesus Christ so they could know Him their whole life."
  2. Take inventory of how God has equipped you to serve.
    "God has uniquely prepared me for every ministry in which he has called me to serve," Scott said.  Indeed, God has gifted each of us to serve (1 Peter 4:10). It only makes sense that we take inventory of our gifts and experiences in order to serve Him better.
  3. You don't need a license to serve.
    It was just a matter of weeks before Scott and Diane began to serve. That action is a great reminder that we don't need a license, specialized training, or years of experience to volunteer. There are many places to get started. Click here to discover some of them at SRC.
  4. Say "Yes" to opportunities to serve.
    Scott said, "I have learned not to seek opportunities but trust him to bring service opportunities to me. I almost always say 'yes' and He provides the time and resources. I lack nothing because I've given mine away." We can serve resting in the fact that God knows us and will provide for us as we do what he calls us to do.

Thanks Scott. Thanks for your faithful service. God's church is better and we are grateful. You're a living embodiment of God's words through Peter.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
— 1 Peter 4:10 ESV

Today we will be recognizing and celebrating all those who serve at Spanish River. Volunteer Appreciation Sunday is our opportunity to say Thanks and to "esteem highly" the hundreds of people at SRC who use the best of their time, talents, and treasures to honor Christ by serving others. Each one is so much more than "just a volunteer." Join us for one service at 10:45 a.m. It is going to be fantastic! Click here for more details.