ABSTRACT Purpose: To understand the meanings of volunteer work among members of a lutheran protestant church. Originality/gap/relevance/implications: This research adds to the field of knowledge of the meanings of work, especially because of the specific context studied. In addition, it extends the discussion on volunteering, by entering the management of religious institutions that are supported by the help of volunteers. Key methodological aspects: A qualitative approach to research was adopted and data were gathered in documents, interviews, and non-participant observation of the board meetings of a lutheran church synod in Southeast Brazil. The perspective used to analyze data was that the production of meanings is also a means for interpreting. Besides, using associating ideas mapping technique allowed the identification of categories based on the content and logical sequence of discourse. Summary of key results: The study found eight meanings of work: identification with the lutheran ethics; integrity and image of the institution; unit; conditions and willingness to participate; incentive from others; relation with the profession; pleasant relationship between a board of directors; and monitoring, support, and recognition. Key considerations/conclusions: The study revealed a better understanding for volunteering at a religious organization on how to think about ways to manage it. Also, it was realized that the experiences and interaction with others shape the individual and his or her relationship with the church, and that the meaning of work has a different relationship to each religion.