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 church is hosting a big thank-you event for first responders this fall. The event has gotten so large, we’ve asked our members to invite their friends to serve. Is this okay? Do you think it’s a good idea to have outsiders volunteering and representing our church?

Answer: Since we’d love to have our friends coming to worship with us, we should more than welcome them to serving with us!

But, it sounds to me that having outsiders “represent” your church is your concern here. After all, they don’t know the way things are usually done, let alone all the Biblical truths behind what we do.

In any kind of volunteer work, requirements vary by position. You require more skills from the volunteer who’ll be building the church website than from the one who’ll be serving coffee. You require more maturity of faith in a first-grade Sunday school teacher than from her craft assistant.

The same rationale is also applicable to your appreciation event. It’s essential that the primary spokesperson for this event represents your church well—this position should be assigned to a church member. For the remaining positions, I would assume that the top requirement, whether they’re from within or beyond your church, is that they are helpful and cheerful.

I’d like to take a moment to look at a few other aspects of having “outsiders” serve. It’s happening naturally at your church—people are inviting friends to volunteer with them. But there are so many benefits, we all should be looking for every opportunity to do it! Most of us find it much easier to invite an unchurched friend to a serving event than to a worship service. And, most people without a church home are more open to the serving event than to a worship service. Serving together builds relationships, and it’s within relationships that opportunities to share faith are most likely to happen.

You can also learn a lot by seeing your activity through their outsider eyes. Plus, even if they’re unable to serve with you, it builds up the reputation of your church as a serving church. Besides all this, you get more volunteers!

Personal invitation is, of course, the best way to invite others to join a serving event. But you can also post “volunteers wanted” posters on store bulletin boards or in the windows of supportive businesses. Local papers usually offer free listings for volunteering opportunities in both print and online versions, and many communities have their own online event postings.

Once you have newcomers set up to volunteer, pay attention to them. With any new volunteers, but especially those from “outside” the church, it’s important that their first experience be positive. We can unintentionally keep them from coming back by using churchy language (like “Meet in the narthex”) or forgetting to point out the coatroom, bathrooms, and other niceties. Have one person in each area or group committed to assisting newcomers.

So—to answer your original question—Jesus was known for welcoming outsiders and we want a reputation like his!

Do you have a question for Karen? Post it in the comments section and you may see it appear in the next edition of “Ask Karen.”

 

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