I don’t think I ever expected to log additional time beyond the work I was already doing as an #SAPro. Between working long days to attend student-sponsored events, Saturday afternoons spent at admissions and orientation sessions, and answering emails from home, I felt as if I was doing enough service already, at least to the campus community.
That all changed this past summer. I had finally found a community of faith that I enjoyed, a place for fellowship and worship that made me feel at “home” in a relatively new city. I had attended church services all over town before stumbling upon this sanctuary through my professional connections, and it felt like the right fit from the first time I attended evening service. The church band played Led Zeppelin, I was allowed to wear jeans and a flannel, and the congregation welcomed me with open arms. Once I felt settled into my little Presbyterian church in Forest Park, I knew I wanted to deepen my involvement within, and beyond, the congregation. I started off by serving as a “one-woman-welcoming-committee,” a role that I proudly still take on today. When those who are new to Birmingham attend our congregation’s services, they are given my contact information and are encouraged to meet with me over lunch, coffee, or a pint to learn more about Birmingham and all of the wonderful things our city has to offer.
Beyond this role, I volunteer on two committees for my church, one focusing on outreach for young adults within and outside the church (defined as folks aged 25-35), and the other focusing on the next directions for our congregation. My service to the Young Adult Committee has gone well beyond what I expected when I signed up, but it’s been a wonderful experience so far. I joined the committee because I wanted to find ways to meet other young adults in my congregation and find ways to continue to engage college students and young alumni in our church and fellowship offerings. Since joining the committee, I have had the opportunity to not only meet some amazing folks and aid in planning outreach events and map out the future of our committee and congregation, but I’ve also created my own fellowship event: Theology on Tap. It’s an opportunity for young adults to come together once a month and discuss contemporary issues within the church over a pint or two. One of the senior pastors had wanted to create this event since he joined the congregation, but he needed someone on the committee who saw value in his idea and was interested in moving it forward. I was able to do this, and it’s an event that members of our congregation look forward to attending each month. The senior pastor and I work closely together to determine locations, topics, and questions for discussion in advance of each meeting.
My work with the Young Adult Committee, in addition to the connections I’ve made within the congregation on my own, caused me to be selected to join the Strategic Planning Committee for our congregation. This committee is made up primarily of senior leadership, with a handful of young adults who have demonstrated a commitment to fellowship and service and who are actively working to move the congregation forward. We are determining the future and next directions of our congregation in each of these meetings, and I walk into these monthly meetings knowing that my vision and insight is valued by the committee due to my prior experiences within the church.
There are many, many reasons why we choose to serve. We serve because it feels good. We serve because we want to make a difference. I chose to do it as a result of the wonderful connections I had already made within my congregation and my desire for more young adults, especially those who might be seeking a new direction or a second home in the Magic City, to experience the joy and fellowship I’ve been able to enjoy over the past few months. It’s deepened my relationships within the church,provided me with non-profit and leadership experience, and it fuels my fire.
This post is part of our #SAvolunteers series, which will explore volunteering in all its forms, for all its reasons. For those student affairs pros who log in more hours once they leave the office, without the monetary reward, this one’s for you! For more information on this series, please see Jessi Robinson’s intro post. Be sure to check out the other posts in this series!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kristen Abell on #SACommits