National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Volunteering: Do I Have To?


April 2-8, 2006 Issue | Posted 4/3/06 at 10:00 AM


I have been asked to serve on a volunteer committee. I’d like to help, but I feel like I am too busy to add another activity to my plate. How do I know whether I’m doing the right thing by declining the request for my time? 

This is a great question and you are asking it at the right time. Most people wait until they are in too deep before assessing their availability.

Here are three simple questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether you are legitimately over-committed — or just finding excuses because you don’t feel like extending yourself a little.

Are you able to spend adequate time with your children and your spouse? One of the great lies of recent decades is that quality time can make up for not being there for your children on a routine, daily basis. “Quality time” is a good thing, but it’s in the quantity of time you’re able to give that the strength of relationships grows.

If you are already committed to obligations that take up evening time, I would not add any new commitments. If your children are in sports and you are having a difficult time fitting in a family dinner, you should forgo the new commitment as well. The years that you have to influence your children at home are numbered and precious. The committees will be there for you after that season of life has come to an end.

Look at it this way: By the time you are ready to serve on the committee, you will bring a few more years of experience. So, in the meantime, you are in training to be a better committee member.

Are you able to meet the demands of your current job? If you are going to have to rob from Peter (your current employer) to pay Paul (your new committee), then you are not ready to take on the new role of volunteer. As a Catholic you must honor your commitment to the company that pays your salary. If you see your work from a vocational perspective, you can see that you are building up the body of Christ each time you enter your workspace. Be sure you feel good about earning an honest day’s pay by contributing an honest day’s work.

Are you able to find time to pray? One of Satan’s strategies is to make us too busy to find time for God. He will employ any trick he can in order to distract us. It is ironic that he even chooses to busy us in the work of the Church to keep us distant from Christ in prayer. He knows that any busyness that takes our focus away from the Lord is to his, Satan’s, advantage.

You should be cognizant of your spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is usually accompanied by increased prayer. If you look back on the past year or two and notice that your prayer life has been stagnant, you may be too busy or too distracted to add responsibilities.

Volunteer work can provide opportunities for some of the most satisfying and meaningful corporal acts of mercy possible. Prayer is essential in discerning whether or not God is calling you, through the signposts of your specific circumstances, to the task you’re being asked to perform.

Motivational speaker Dave Durand is the author of Time Management for Catholics.

He’s online at