Recruiting and Equipping Effective Volunteers
When it comes to poverty alleviation ministry, it’s not uncommon for new volunteers to feel excited about getting involved. They can’t wait to make a difference. But if these volunteers aren’t well-prepared for the work they’re joining, over time, they will likely begin to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. They realize that there are more needs than resources and there is always something else they could do to help. Walking through deep valleys with people wrestling with material poverty, the road is often rough and the way forward isn’t always clear. These sorts of challenges are part of the reason that The Chalmers Center regularly talks about the importance of training volunteers.
While we want to avoid the ditch of not doing anything because we’re afraid we might hurt people, we also want to avoid the opposite ditch of thinking that we have all the answers and we have the solution to poverty. Both of these views are problematic. We need to train our volunteers in a biblical approach to poverty alleviation that stems from humility.
It’s important that volunteers in your church or organization who you are inviting to work alongside people in material poverty understand that poverty isn’t just a lack of material goods. At its root, poverty is about broken relationships: broken relationships with God, with ourselves, with others, and with creation. Walking with people as God works in both the “helpers” and the “helped” to restore these broken relationships is the heart of effective poverty alleviation ministry. That’s why it’s critical to train volunteers to pursue long-term relational ministry rather than trying to put a band-aid on a challenge as complex as material poverty.
This short video on equipping volunteers is drawn from our Helping Without Hurting in Benevolence Ministry training. Here, Jerilyn Sanders, Chalmers’ senior director of U.S. economic development, offers insights on what to expect, challenges you might encounter, and practical ways you can equip your volunteers for ministry alongside the materially poor.
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