Years ago when my husband and I were preparing to marry – in a church – we sat down with the minister for a chat. We had never met him but he was the current minister in the church in Ontario where my parents married, and where my grandparents had spent a large part of their lives going to church with their 13 children. As people who didn’t actually go to church regularly this meeting had us feeling a little awkward, but the minister put us at ease. He said that he realizes that going to church is something that often ebbs and flows throughout a person’s lifetime, and that it was open to us to return to going to church later if we wished. To our late-20s selves he was a pretty cool minister. It was just what we needed to hear at the time.
On a similar note a phrase related to volunteering has been coming up for me lately in my reading: the “spectrum of engagement”. This phrase encourages us to think about all the ways a volunteer can be engaged in our organization, from micro-volunteering opportunities to full-scale leadership opportunities and everything in between. Because people do go through life ebbing and flowing, balancing other interests along with volunteering. Our job is not to make volunteers feel bad for changing their commitment level to the organization, it’s to build a program that has enough inherent flexibility in it so that volunteers know it’s OK to live their regular lives along with doing good work for us – when and how they can.