One aspect of Stewardship is that of ‘Giving’, especially in terms of giving our material goods and money. We ought also to give of our time and talent and that is what we consider under the title ‘Volunteering’.
It will be evident from the information in this website that Abbey has big ambitions because we share God’s big purpose for humanity and for the world. For us to even begin to realise these ambitions we rely on the voluntary support of our members.
In his book, The Church Beyond the Congregation, James Thwaites alerts us to the common danger of tying up church members’ time and energies in purely church-related activities. He argues that congregations should organise themselves to maximise time and effort ‘beyond the congregation’; in our main spheres of influence: marriages, parenting/family and work. The basic idea is that most people live most of their lives in these areas, so these are the areas for which they must be prepared and in which they will most naturally and effectively bear witness to God’s purpose. We agree with his analysis and seek to limit the demands we place on members; recognising of course that every organisation requires people to assist in its operation.
Consequently we encourage members to:
- Participate in a weekly Cell Group
- Participate in the weekly Celebration
- Offer their appropriate time and talent when required
As our Cell Groups develop they will take their turn in assisting with the Celebrations (preparing the sanctuary beforehand, welcoming and assisting people as they arrive for worship, lifting the offering, operating the multi-media projector, reading the Scriptures, leading prayers, serving coffee, cleaning and locking up). Each Cell Group will also be expected to serve in the local community alongside one of the many projects that require voluntary assistance. Together these opportunities provide a ready platform for developing gifts, developing character and identifying leadership. By arranging things this way we also spread the load so that the same few people are not relied upon to do everything (as often happens in churches). We also encourage and support members who are not in a Cell Group to volunteer their time and gifting to the Celebrations and to local volunteering as their act of worship and service.
Because the congregation is an organisation with responsibilities to the wider church (Presbyterian Church in Ireland) and to the state, we must ensure compliance with legislation and good governance. Responsibility for the spiritual oversight of the congregation falls to the Kirk Session (a group of men and women elected by the members and ordained by the Presbytery for life). Responsibility for the ‘temporal affairs’ of the congregation falls to the Congregation Committee (a group of men and women elected by the members for three years); and to the Trustees (a group of men and women elected by the members to oversee the bequests, assets and investments on behalf of the congregation). We must ensure that our money, our buildings and our staffing always comply with church and state regulations, so we rely on the volunteered services of individuals to assist.
Other opportunities for volunteering will arise from time to time, but we aim to keep the demands to a minimum and encourage our members in effective witness in their own spheres of influence.