Well-Being Australia chairman Mark Tronson, a Baptist minister of 31 years and cricket chaplain, says he is delighted that Federal backbencher and former treasurer Peter Costello has highlighted the role of volunteers.
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald prior to the New Year, Peter Costello wrote:
“In the last census, we added a question to find out how many Australians engage in voluntary work. The results are interesting. Women are more likely to do voluntary work for an organisation or group than men. Older people are more likely to do voluntary work than younger ones. But overall, one in five Australians engages in voluntary work for an organisation or group.
“This means there is a vast, unpaid workforce in our society running the voluntary organisations and building community - looking after the aged, keeping up sporting organisations for the young and reducing the cost burden, which would be severe if all the staff of these organisations had to be paid out of taxpayer dollars. There is a strong tradition of service in our community for which we should all be grateful.”
M V Tronson notes that the actual volunteer figure is considerably higher. Firstly, there are a lot of young people who volunteer in personal and private ways, without necessarily joining an organisation. But secondly, and more importantly, he says that had there been 'an additional question' in the census on those who volunteer their services in Christian churches and missions, an astonishing statistic would have been revealed.
“Christians not only have a proclivity to volunteer in service to their Lord and Saviour through the biblical injunction, but they are enthusiastic about becoming personally involved. This is akin to a ‘double whammy’, and provides a challenge for all Christian ministers, who sometimes feel as though they are trying to round up cats,” M V Tronson noted.
He lists a few of the examples of the roles volunteers play in the local church: gardening and lawns, cleaning up the surrounds and the church, the kitchen and toilets, run Play Groups, after school Kids’ clubs, youth programs, mid-week home groups and bible studies, prayer meetings, the endless administration meetings, and so on and so forth.
Then there is another group of Christian volunteers from local churches who play vital roles in the community; those who visit shut-ins, help the disabled with grocery shopping, run worship services in nursing homes and similar elderly constructs, visiting the sick (both short or long term illness) in their homes or hospitals, transport help to and from doctors or medical centres, visiting new mothers, casseroles or cakes to new street residents or parishioners, and many other unseen caring acts of support.
Missions and non-Government registered Church welfare arms also have armies of volunteers who provide a wide array of help from enveloping mail-outs, performing administration duties, answering telephone inquiries, providing encouragement and support, helping with outreaches, mentoring and transport. Overarching all this, there is the universal sacrificial financial giving within a Christian congregation.
“In 1982 Dr David Milliken a Uniting Church minister who at one time headed up the ABC Religion Department, wrote the book, 'A Sunburnt Soul' and his statistic that has never been disputed, highlighted the Christian contribution to the Australian society, that of 82% of all welfare,” M V Tronson noted.
Peter Costello made the point that the Commonwealth could not financially survive should the public purse have to pay every one of those 'one in five Australians' who volunteer, let alone those from local congregations listed above.
“Volunteerism is nonetheless one of the ingredients identified by John Mark Ministries' Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher, in 'ministry stress'. He counsels Christian leaders who are overwhelmed by leading an army of volunteers,” M V Tronson noted.
For eighteen years from 1982, M V Tronson pioneered and led the national Sports and Leisure Ministry with 250 volunteers, made up of 150 clergy serving part-time as sports chaplains to Australia's professional sports, along with 100 ministry helpers and Christian athletes engaged in mentoring.
“Even with all the detailed organisation required, I found that co-ordinating 150 seriously committed clergy, many of whom had significant ministries with their own parish ministries, was fascinating - particularly when some made it known they were the fount of all inspiration,” M V Tronson smiled.
Volunteers the unsung heroes in mission
By: M. V. Tronson
Christian Today Australia Columnist
Christian Today Australia Columnist
Monday, 12 January 2009, 13:46 (EST)
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