Labor of Love is most easily described as a group of friends who gather together in search of someone to help, one person, one weekend at a time. Our mission is simple – be the help, become the good we wish to see.
Sometimes the group of friends who gather is small & sometimes the group is large.
Sometimes the help is big in scope, but more often it is simple things that need doing that can be done in a couple of days work with a modest amount of people and supplies.
We are a national group without geographic boundaries – without a strong hierarchy that makes rules, without local chapters, but with a definitive recipe for success, grounded in principles. Like any recipe, if any of the key ingredients or proportions are modified too much, the outcome will be modified as well. But, there is still lots of room to have the recipe include local flavors and new traditions, and also room for lots of cooks in the kitchen. There is something everyone can do.
There isn’t a community anywhere that cannot use what Labor of Love people can provide. There are people everywhere who have a heart and willing hands to gather to serve. We hope to harness that energy and improve lives and build a sense of community.
Labor of Love people are often active in their own neighborhoods as well, using the inspiration and things they have learned to continue making a difference every day at home, in whatever sphere they are found. Some people do their service work locally using the Labor of Love name and model, others simply serve.
There are a few essential things that make Labor of Love work, and make it unique.
The Core Ingredients
- Self funded, meaning that project supplies and service event needs (food and sometimes housing) are provided by pooling the financial resources of member volunteers, not primarily through corporate or institutional donations or discounts.
- Emphasis is on person-to-person service (as compared with institutional volunteering)
- Emphasis is on building community among participants, within a geographic community or in spite of geographic distance (creating lasting friendships between volunteers, and a desire to gather together again)
- Fostering a feeling that is inclusive and welcoming to volunteers with a diverse set of skills and interests, backgrounds and resources, valuing every contribution and contributor.
- Non-denominational, apolitical and able to stand independent of affiliations that impose restrictions that may limit who participates or who can be helped. This enables Labor of Love to act as a uniting force, able to connect people who have a heart to help, but who may agree on little else.
It has been our observation that most non-profit organizations or community service options begin by defining a need (work to be done), and then seeking people and resources to meet that need.
Each Labor of Love (LoL) begins with a different starting point altogether. We begin as our movement began – with a gathering of people in a particular place at a selected date who have the heart to do something. It doesn’t matter particularly whether all of the people live in the same area, though that can be a bonus. The project selection and scope of work is secondary, and when chosen wisely, is matched to the capabilities and resources of the people. What matters is that those people who feel they should be there will come and feel welcome, and that someone is willing to step up, using the recipe, and become a host or host/organizer for the group.
Once the quantity of willing people is known, more or less, then the skills and resources are also known – to the host, to the mentor (someone who has successfully done this before), and to God, who does the miracle that follows. He provides, every time, when we listen. The participants, the host and the mentor are willing and have made themselves available – and God is faithful. He knows who needs help. He knows the capabilities and resources of the people willing to come or provide support. And His math and timing is perfect. Sometimes it is not what we might have planned on our own or initially wanted, but it is always what was needed.
The Labor of Love Toolkit (coming in August) has sections for event organizers to describe the process of planning and executing an event, including how to find the service opportunities and what to expect in your interactions with Labor of Love and volunteers who may attend an event. Toolkit sections for volunteers describe the many ways you can get involved in supporting event organizers at a Labor of Love event, or planning a personal service project in your own community – roles that are needed and the type of work to be done.
The core ingredients define Labor of Love. The traditions that have become expected and beloved by repeat volunteers attempt to create the core ingredients in proportion and balance, with local flavor and reflecting a unique signature for each event. For example, service events have practical needs like housing, meals, roles for planning, leadership, and support, seeking opportunities, seeking funds or equipment. There are many ways to meet these practical needs – some work better than others, and having a roadmap to follow can give an organizer a head start or lead to a more consistently successful outcome.
Doing it the way it has been done before, following traditions that have produced a desired result in the past, is one option. The Labor of Love Toolkit (coming in August) explores many of these practical event needs, offering options & suggestions and helping people new to the group know what they might expect to encounter. People are available to help mentor or provide advice, using experience gained doing this over several years.
- “Labor of Love Organized” events are a partnership between a representative of the national Labor of Love group and a local host, and follow the core ingredients and traditions outlined in the toolkit.
- “Locally organized” events carrying the Labor of Love name are listed on the Labor of Love event calendar as Labor of Love Local events, and may carry the LoL name at the discretion of the national Labor of Love group, but may vary in degrees from the model of the Labor of Love organized events. Many key areas for these events are the responsibility of the local organizer, including project selection and funding.
- “Locally organized” service may also be ad hoc or scheduled gatherings of volunteers who met through Labor of Love or elsewhere, and are not listed on the Labor of Love event calendar. These may happen anytime, anywhere, with wide variation in the format and type of work.
Over a period of years, Labor of Love traditions have evolved, either to move the concept forward, or to address issues that come up along the way. Sometimes traditions evolve because people bring new ideas forward and are willing to help implement them and their experiment works. Your voice is needed, leaving your own mark on the Labor of Love movement is welcome. You will be more successful introducing new traditions as you understand the reasons behind the ones we have followed before – what we were trying to accomplish at a core or foundational level. You will also be more successful with good communication – asking questions, seeking understanding, being open to feedback.
People come to be involved with Labor of Love for a variety of reasons, and bring with them opinions and preferences, personalities and communication styles. These reasons, opinions, preferences, and life circumstances can sometimes create opportunities for patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. We are a group of people – all with strengths and weaknesses, and perhaps a few rough edges too. When we combine our strengths and are wise, we can accomplish anything. When we focus on weaknesses or differences, the experience will be less satisfying. As we leave room for people to grow and change, assume one another’s best intent, be encouraging and kind always, we can find our way through anything together.
On occasion, people try to turn Labor of Love into something that it is not:
- We are not first responders to disasters or able to meet acute needs, though there may be Labor of Love people who can do such things on their own.
- We are not a good option to provide services that involve a long term commitment to rehabilitate or reform chronic problems in someone’s life. We do sometimes provide triage for the heart, and an infusion of hope to people with chronic problems, but either local volunteers or other organizations may be a better fit to provide the longer term support when needed.
- Because this work is funded and supported by people of mostly average means and do-it-yourself skill levels, there are practical limits on the scope and type of work that are wise choices for this format. Projects that attempt to address structural issues, that require licensing or permitting, that are beyond a modest cost, or that subject volunteers involved to significant safety risks are not generally good candidates for Labor of Love.
- We do not provide money or direct fundraising, though the people we help could often use that type of assistance also. We provide labor and love, and through that provide time and attention. Sometimes our labor raises funds or we support other partner non-profits by purchasing to their needs (for example, a bake sale or an online wish list). We provide evidence that someone cares, that the one we help matters to us and to God.
Our story is rooted in parables. The widows mite. The good Samaritan. The principles that define Labor of Love are rooted not in right or left, but in doing the right thing with one’s own hands, not expecting someone else to do it. Being good, doing good – these are the acts of individual merit and voluntary interdependence that can transform people and perspective.
Labor of Love is an experiential learning process – a bootcamp in love and community, where the service projects we do are a means to that end. It is not about the work primarily, but about the transformation of the heart that comes through fellowship, community, hard work, and the gift of unconditional love.
Whether you participate in Labor of Love by attending an event, organizing service projects in your own community on your own or by partnering with Labor of Love, or providing help by funding project supplies – you are essential to this work. Every hour of support, every dollar is precious. Thank you for being willing to learn the recipe and apply it. Come and see. The outcome is worth the effort.