Editor’s note: Today, we continue the series titled “Ask Karen.” CTA’s volunteer expert, Karen Kogler, will answer one of the most pressing volunteer-related questions facing church leaders in 2017. If you have a question you’d like to ask Karen, just post it in the comments section!
Question: Our women’s ministry has a great group of volunteers. They frequently offer to cover volunteer needs at church. The leader has discussed the possibility of the group going off-site to volunteer at a local school. How can I help make this opportunity a success? Should I be aware of any pitfalls?
Answer: First, let’s thank God for blessing you with great volunteers and a leader with vision. More and more, we’re seeing how serving in the community opens doors to relationships and conversations on spiritual issues.
Some thoughts for getting things off to a positive start and avoiding pitfalls.
- Why this school? Hopefully, it’s because one of the group members heard of a need from staff or saw “volunteers wanted” publicity. It’s best to serve where we’ve been invited.
- What will they do at the school? We should do what they want done, not what we want to do. Be willing to sweep floors, lots of floors, again and again, if that’s their need.
- If your group leader sets up and maintains good communication channels with an identified contact person from the school, misunderstandings will be less frequent and less harmful.
- Our attitude should be that of guests in someone else’s home. We play by their rules.
- There’s more impact if we are in one school for the long haul rather than moving from school to school. It takes time to build relationships and time for trust to form—years, not months.
What about sharing our faith when we’re serving off-site? Some of us are so fearful of offending others that we avoid all mention of faith. Others of us bring it up so often we chase people away.
Faith-sharing in organized community serving venues is a delicate area. In his book Joining Jesus on His Mission, author Greg Finke describes an approach to faith sharing that works as well in community serving as it does in every other area of life: loving people, building trust-filled relationships in which issues of faith can be safely and respectfully discussed.
A written statement of how your church views faith-sharing opportunities can be useful. In addition to starting a helpful and healthful conversation among the volunteers, it can guide a discussion between your leader and the school’s representative.
In much of our American culture, the church is viewed as irrelevant. But the same culture values service and those who serve. Remember, the same sacrificial service that Jesus modeled for us and commands of us, is also our open door to the people he loves.
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