The purpose of this document is to help Coalition Volunteer Managers specifically recruit senior volunteers from local churches. The idea of local Christians from local churches serving in Disaster Relief and Recovery is consistent with the Houston Responds premise that the people living in a community affected by a natural disaster should be helped primarily by the local church
Understanding the Local Church
As a faith-based non-profit whose purpose for existing is to help in disasters, both relief and recovery, we come alongside the local churches and stand in the gap, in the long term – providing help where the local church is not able or willing or called to help those affected by the disaster.
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in the disaster recovery ministry is maintaining reconstruction momentum. Our mission effectiveness depends upon a continuous stream of volunteers who serve as our labor force. During the first months of a disaster, there is a strong commitment on the part of local and distant churches to help the helpless.
Over time, priorities change, and attention drifts to other opportunities. For the local church, the desire to “get back to normal” becomes dominant in church life.
The Demographics of The Church
Every church has a seniors’ group. This group is a vast reserve of wisdom and abilities that are typically untapped or worse, ignored. The problem is that those same seniors have been taught, long before they became a senior to expect nothing less. In fact, our American culture teaches everyone that you work until you get to a certain age, then you focus on yourself and enjoy life.
Speaking with the Minister to Seniors in a large local church, he told me that the seniors he had spoken to expect to be served, not to serve. He was taken aback by that comment and was struggling with finding the Biblical imperative for that thinking. In fact, quite the opposite was true. He said, “We are called to serve by the Spirit and are never to stop unless led by the Spirit.”
Actually, there is no age limitation on serving or ministering. That limitation does not come from God, but from man. Perhaps well intended, but very often misplaced.
Because of the factors influencing Senior participation in church ministry and missions, there is generally a lack of opportunity for members over 55 to serve in a meaningful way, both inside and outside of the church.
Spiritual Composition and Motivation of the Church
There is a rule concerning participation called the 10-10-80 rule. I don’t think it is quite a natural law, but it does seem to be proven true more often than not. The rule essentially says states the 10% of a group of people will never participate – not matter how compelling the appeal. 10% of the people do not need encouragement, they are already predisposed to serving and are actively seeking opportunities to serve. You might see them serving as volunteers with a national relief organization or in some community service project. Then there is the 80%. The clear majority of people in the group. They will serve but not outside the context of relationship or leadership. Someone must cast the vision and lead the way. Without the participation and endorsement of the spiritual leadership in a church, you will not be successful in your quest to engage that church in relief or recovery.
How To Recruit Church Members With Discretionary Time
Use the same approach as recruiting all volunteers.
All adult church members are the same, spiritually. They all have the Spirit of God in them. They all share the same call to serve one another and love one another. But there are distinctive aspects of their lives that make them unique. You need to be sensitive to those distinctives.
For Senior adults some of those distinctions might be, but are not limited to:
- Physical strength
- Medical considerations
- Spiritual Depth
- Work Experience
The entry point for most churches is through the Pastor. Depending upon the size of the church, it might be the senior pastor or one of the assistant pastors, such as the missions pastor. If you do not have the support of the pastor, you will not have the support of the people. If the Spirit of God has gone ahead of you, then you will find favor with the pastor and the leadership. If not, move on. Not all churches will embrace you or your mission.
Meet with Key Person from Local Church
More than likely you will be asked to coordinate and communicate with a lay leader in the church. Houston Responds refers to that person as the Disaster Relief Coordinator (DRC).
The key person should be someone who has a passion or interest in helping people repair their homes. That person will be your advocate. They will know men and women who have a heart or passion for helping others. This person must:
- Be Recognized by Church Leadership
- Understand the Role of the Local Church vs Parachurch Ministries
- Be aware of current rebuild needs in community
- Meet with church members interested in rebuilding ministry
- Meet with other DRC’s and the coalition Volunteer Manager
- Participate in the Rebuilding
Get in front of the people you want to recruit
You should ask for permission to speak to Bible Study classes, men’s groups, and people they know who have an interest in serving to meet for one hour. Right after church is the best time since the people are already present, but it might be on an evening during the week. During that hour you will cast the vision for the help needed.
Tell the Story
– Work: 1-2-3 days at a time
– Work Hours: 4 -5 hour workdays. Avoid the heat of the day
– Skills Required: Any skill level. Give Examples of Low Skills
– For The Untrained: Provide training. What, when, where
– Equipment Provided: tools – including things like drywall lifts and ladders with wide steps – of course, they can bring their own personal tools
Ask people to sign up or at least pray about volunteering
The church may not be willing to dedicate ministry resources – a leader/DRC or money to this – but may be willing to facilitate the coalition engaging with its members who are interested in serving on behalf of the church either directly or through a key person.
Managing Volunteers with Discretionary Time
So what will the teams look like? You should not expect any one church to provide all of the people you need for a rebuild. In all probability, you will recruit a few people with various skills from each of several churches. Volunteers from the same church may want to work together, but your work teams will most likely be comprised of volunteers from different churches.
It will be your responsibility to schedule their work during the week. To contact the volunteers and follow-up the day before they are to report for work. The team composition will most likely be “ad-hoc” in that the members will not be the same, even day to day. It will be the responsibility of the coalition site leader to organize the work each day. Success will require close coordination and planning between the volunteer manager and site leader.