On February 27th, Monday, FinnAgora organized in cooperation with the Hungarian Evangelical Lutheran Church a seminar for Finland’s friendship congregations in Hungary at the Embassy of Finland. The theme of the seminar was volunteer work in congregations in Finland and in Hungary. The discussion was about the importance of volunteer work, its future, challenges, and opportunities.

The invited attendants were from different parts of Hungary and represented different congregations that have friendship congregations in Finland. At the start of the seminar the Ambassador of Finland, Pertti Anttinen and bishop Tamás Fabiny both said their welcoming remarks. The speeches, including that of FinnAgora’s interim director Anneli Temmes, emphasized the importance of volunteer work and of a joint discussion.

The seminar’s Finnish expert was pastor Anna-Maija Viljanen-Pihkala from the Lutheran Church of Helsinki. In her presentation she emphasized the work that is done by volunteers in Finland and discussed how to make the importance of volunteer work visible in the congregation. She spoke of how to get volunteers to be involved, as well as the importance of their work, education, and guidance, and the necessity of saying thanks. Another important point was that one must be able to tackle even difficult questions when needed.

The experiences on how to motivate and lead volunteers in Hungary was shared by pastor Roland Szidoly and during a panel discussion held by Dr. Klára Cselovszky. Among the interesting examples were festivals where young volunteers were invited to attend. Volunteer work brings a lot of value to the church and to the people, and through it a better community can be created where connections between different generations are made. In Hungary it is also interesting that there is a 50-hour obligatory volunteer work requirement for all students at a high-school level.

In the seminar the power and the requirements for volunteer work was presented. It was also shown that volunteer work is not self-evident, and it is especially important to get young people to join when many are busy during their free time. Personal connections are important to motivate new volunteers to join. Bishop Fabiny raised the possibility for collaboration regarding volunteer work between our churches and countries.

Volunteer work that is perceived as meaningful is a factor of being happy, as the Ambassador said in his opening remarks referring to a study on happiness.


Anneli Temmes