Volunteers in diaspora ministry

June 11, 2018

Anyone involved in any type of ministry knows the importance of volunteers. Diaspora ministry is no different. Volunteers serve in critical areas such as teaching English, setting up apartments, mentoring students and helping new Americans find jobs. Volunteers are invaluable because they make more ministry possible.

Every ministry leader I know would love to have more volunteers that serve with compassion, competence and consistency. However, the difficulties involved in diaspora ministry often present volunteers with unique challenges. Ministry leaders must help volunteers overcome these challenges so they can serve well. The purpose of this article is to explore three of these challenges and offer ways ministry leaders can better serve volunteers in diaspora ministry.

Basic training in cross-cultural ministry.
All volunteers in diaspora ministry need basic training in cross-cultural ministry. Even volunteers that have served as overseas missionaries need a review of the unique needs that refugees and immigrants have when adjusting to life in our country. Basic training in cross-cultural ministry can provide volunteers a framework for understanding and interpreting the taboos, habits and preferences of various cultures.

Furthermore, a two-hour orientation or more robust basic training provides the opportunity to remind volunteers of the biblical basis for diaspora ministry, strategies for avoiding dependency, and how to share the gospel with various religious groups. The Church’s Guide to Ministry to Refugees is a great resource to help facilitate a basic training on refugee ministry. See this and additional resources below. Volunteers new to diaspora ministry should find basic training in cross-cultural training fun, insightful and invaluable.

Guidance regarding boundaries.
The best part of diaspora ministry are the people you get to serve. The most challenging aspect of diaspora ministry are the people you get to serve. Volunteers will need guidance when refugee or immigrant families want to lean too heavily on their new American friends for help. Volunteers may feel guilty if they are not able to come every time their new friend needs assistance. Volunteers may struggle to handle late night text messages, emergency transportation needs, and medical crises. I know from personal experience how hard it is to maintain reasonable boundaries when you want to help as much as you can, but you only have so much time and resources.

It is especially difficult when some of the best ministry opportunities come through these emergencies. However, every situation is not an emergency. Volunteers new to diaspora ministry will face these challenges and they will need help determining when and how to say, “no.” They will need help determining when it is appropriate or inappropriate to share their cell phone number. For instance, on multiple occasions my wife has shared her phone number with good intentions with men we were both helping. However, I had to confront these men when they began calling my wife instead of me way too frequently. You get the point. Ministry leaders must help volunteers see these challenges coming and provide guidance for setting wise boundaries.

Appreciation and encouragement.
I know it goes without saying that ministry leaders must show abundant levels of appreciation for their volunteers. However, the unique challenges of diaspora ministry make this need even greater. Volunteers have their choice of where they serve, who they serve, and how long they serve. I always assume our volunteers could pick an easier area of service that didn’t involve language barriers and cultural sensitivities. Therefore, the burden is on the ministry leader to go the extra mile to encourage volunteers and ensure they have the resources they need to be successful. Volunteer appreciation lunches, simple thank you notes, and frequent words of encouragement make a big difference. May God bless you with many opportunities to train, guide and encourage your volunteers in diaspora ministry.

A quick word for volunteers:
If you are reading this article and you are the volunteer, let me say “Thank You!” Thank you for your willingness to engage in diaspora ministry. Please know your contribution, no matter how big or small, can be life-changing. I want to encourage you to reach out to your ministry leader any time you have a question or run into a challenge that you didn’t see coming. Books, articles, and seminars can only cover so many topics.

Diaspora ministry includes challenges that are often sudden, surprising, and confusing. Please know you are not the first person to face these unforeseen challenges. Reach out for wisdom and guidance from experienced practitioners who can help. Also, please follow the guidance of the ministry leaders you serve with. It is so important the you support their strategy and ministry philosophy. Thank you again for serving!

The lost community you may not see

About one-third of North Carolina’s population live in multifamily housing communities, such as apartments, townhomes, condominiums and mobile home parks. Nationally, approximately 95 percent of individuals living in multifamily housing communities are unchurched. However, many...

Lottie Moon Christmas Offering: Week of prayer

Lottie Moon invested nearly 40 years of her life as a missionary in China. She focused on making disciples, and set a tremendous example for all Southern Baptists by dedicating herself to the expansion of God’s kingdom. Since 1888, the Southern Baptist Convention has been honoring...

How to reach the nations among us through ESL

Teaching English as a second language (ESL) to adult immigrants and refugees can be a great way to share the gospel with internationals. However, simply inserting devotions and praying during ESL classes often doesn’t bear fruit because most students don’t come from a Christian...

Challenges families face when ministering to the unreached

Pursuing unreached peoples with the gospel as a family requires simple obedience that leads to a life of kingdom service.As we commit to “become all things” to unreached peoples living near us, we expose virtually every aspect of our lives.Marital peace, behavioral expectations,...

Seeing life through the eyes of a refugee

We live in a day when global migrations are occurring at a dizzying pace. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 44,000 people per day are forced to flee their homes due to violent conflict or persecution. Let that number sink in — 44,000 people per day. Many countries...

Why students and retirees are critical to reaching the unreached

The Bible calls our journey as Christians a race. Once you trust Christ as your Savior, your race begins. As you move through different seasons of your life, God has a plan for you. Your desire should be to finish strong. Students and retirees are two diverse groups who are at...

How a couples’ care for refugees opens doors to share Jesus

As believers, we reach the nations because Jesus is worthy of the praise of the nations. Also, according to Acts 17, the Lord has moved the nations to us that they may know and worship Him. Personally, we reach the nations as a married couple because the Lord currently has us in...

Reaching them here as a single

Growing up, family Scripture memory revolved around reminders of our identity as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), our commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and passages that highlighted what it means to live between eternal security and being a...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get the latest news and event information by signing up for the N.C. Baptist newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!