A naturalistic investigation of voluntary service in faith-based adult literacy programs : altruism, education, and spiritual development
Gray, Cynthia Ann
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This study was designed to determine the nature of the commitment of volunteers in faith-based adult literacy programs. The literature base encompassed four content areas: Christian adult education, voluntarism, literacy, and commitment. Methodology involved conducting interviews with 21 tutors and supervisors in 19 programs using a structured set of questions, then associating the responses to six research questions. Following are the six research questions with a summary response statement: (1) Can we distinguish between loyalty, motivation, and commitment to God, the denomination, or other individuals (supervisor/administrator, pastor, student)? The underlying commitment, loyalty, and motivation of these volunteers were related to their understanding of faith and service and their desire to live in God's will. (2) Can we relate commitment to duration of service? These volunteers perceived lack of commitment to be a major reason people leave a program; and commitment to God, the program, and literacy itself are the reasons people stay. (3) What is the value of commitment? Responses indicated volunteers discerned the value of their own commitment. (4) Does the spiritual value stressed in a church setting provide motivation for people to help other people? Religious/theological beliefs and educational beliefs were inseparable for many of these volunteers. (5) What is central to the volunteer experience? Individual ministry opportunity was central. (6) What makes commitment to a faith-based program different from community-based programs? Volunteers supported program goals: to develop literacy skills and to teach about Christ and Christianity. Four Principles of Volunteer Participation emerged from the study based on the concept of altruism determined from the commitment of these volunteers to Christ and to literacy itself. I named them Principles of Altruistic Voluntarism, Voluntary Education and Spiritual Development, Mutual Reciprocity, and Transcendental Reciprocity. I produced clarified themes and proposed nine opportunities for further research. Conclusions affect both present and potential participants in faith-based programs: students, tutors, and administrators of programs; clergy, lay adult educators, and administrative officials of denominations; Christians now participating in community-based programs, and the administrators of these programs.