The number of blogs and articles related to growing volunteers in the church is simply astounding. Yet, every pastor and church staff member knows that there is no 5-step model, 6 ways, or 3 keys solution to growing volunteers and to exterminating the shortage that is always there. Most anybody who works or serves in a church has heard of the 80/20 rule and would be rich and famous if a magic formula was found that would combat this fact of life. No doubt there is some truth to the value in showing proper appreciation, providing appropriate training, keeping things organized, and following any of the other principles that are outlined in all of the plethora of resources that supposedly outline the perfect formula for success. However, the fact remains that there is need for more volunteers giving more of themselves to contribute to the causes that are worthy of such engagement. The arena of missions is no different, and therefore, any time that things to do are mentioned, pastors and staff have this sense of anxiety boil up from within as they ponder how volunteers might be needed. But hang tight…
Last month there was an article on missionary care that did exactly what many of these blog articles tend to do. It was full of tips and tricks that a church could be doing to provide care to missionaries. (See the article HERE) The fact is that last month’s article more generally summarized what specific foundational principles are important for establishing a culture of care. This month’s article will list what those nuts and bolts look like in terms of real things that real people (volunteers!) can do in order to establish that care. Before the pastors and staffers have that sense of anxiety boil up from within, this is not a list that comes with spaces to fill or boxes to check. This list simply shows examples of common people using ordinary and natural skills and resources to engage in something that they don’t even consider to be called serving as a volunteer. It does not mean working out any sort of special plan to fill volunteer roles, no matter how magical that plan might be. It does not require a volunteer coordinator who will be pulling his/her hair out!
Here is a practical list of ways that “volunteers” have cared for the needs of the Thompson family of five who served on the mission field in Japan with OMF (largest Protestant mission sending agency in Japan) for 23 years:
• Hospitality: Hosting us at their home for meals or overnight trips, preparing homes for us to live in during our home assignments (AKA furlough), welcoming our college-aged children during school breaks.
• Transportation: Driving us to/from airports or loaning us a car during shorter visits.
• Practical help: Loaning us furniture, providing household items, helping us navigate public schools, providing babysitting, or sharing services they are qualified to provide (an eye doctor who gave our family of five eye exams at no charge and even provided glasses for those needing them, again at no charge).
• Prayer: A couple that started a prayer group just for us, which met monthly for about 10 years!
• Gifts: People who sent care packages and Christmas gifts to Japan for us, gave us tickets to American cultural activities during our home assignment, and purchased computer software and hardware in the United States and sent to us on the field.
• Communication: Volunteers who chose to forward us church bulletins and newsletters, newspaper articles from home, and even the comics.
• Advocacy: People who introduced us to their friends, churches and pastors in the hope that we could share about the needs of the Japanese more widely.
• Visits: A team of people came to Japan to lead the children’s program at our annual conference (twice!), and other individuals or couples visited us to see the ministry and encourage us.
• And in many more ways I don’t have room to include!
So, as a follow up from the previous article, how do you spell care? Is it possible that volunteers may exist to fill these roles? Volunteers who aren’t wanting to work a program, schedule themselves for service, or fulfill a named position? Maybe there are volunteers who just want to serve with no fanfare and in giving of themselves to care for missionaries? Maybe, just maybe, there is no checklist to check off and no 5-step model to success, but maybe there are plenty of people with a heart to serve who just need to know of ways that their service could be a blessing to a missionary who needs some TLC. Once these ideas are presented, it might turn out that the volunteers actually volunteer! Wouldn’t that be an amazing feat and a great way to spell CARE?
Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that OMF uses to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well. firstname.lastname@example.org