Part 2 on Hosting a Short Term Volunteer Team
by Pastor Kent Reeder
Illumine Church in Rock Hill, SC

The First 24 Hours with Your Kingdom Worker Team:  Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name

It was such a fun 24 hours. I (Pastor Kent Reeder) had been corresponding with the people on our Kingdom Workers Faith-in-Action team, but that day I got to meet them. Lorraine and Spring landed first. Dan and Jackie drove in a few hours later. Two more trips to the airport, and Bonnie and Linda completed our team. 

It was such a special 24 hours. For the first time, our Rock Hill core congregation members saw how valuable membership in WELS would be for Illumine Church. We met these selfless people who were giving a whole week to help this new church launch right. We shared the first meal with people we definitely look forward to feasting with in heaven.

It was such an important 24 hours. In those first airport pickups, those first living room conversations, and that first organizational meeting, we set the standards for this mission trip. We set the standards for the trip’s spirituality, level of fun, work ethic, and interpersonal relationships. We laid the groundwork for how to portray Illumine to the community. 

We had to have those conversations, informal and formal, to figure out how to work together. As brothers and sisters through Christ, we loved each other no matter what. As individual people, however, bringing differing experiences, expectations and extra-vs-intro-versions of ourselves to the table, we needed to bond. 

 We didn’t have a formal, deductive, organizational meeting until hour 22(!), largely because our Workers came in throughout that first day. Instead, the Workers had some inductive opportunities to get to know what what was coming, which worked really well for us. In the afternoon while we waited for the last team members, we prepped canvassing materials. It was helpful for everyone to break a little sweat that first day. It was a simple task that got us all working together.

Then we ate together. Since my wife and I would be spending the most time with the team, we hosted dinner the first night. It wasn’t anything special, just a chance for us to keep getting to know each other. 

The highlight of the first evening was a parade in downtown Rock Hill. Our team came during Rock Hill’s annual Come-See-Me festival, and this was the kickoff. They were going to be attending many of the events of the festival, so it was a good introduction to the family-friendliness of it and to how to start meeting and connecting with people in Rock Hill. 

We made sure to give the Kingdom Worker team some extra time to settle in at their host house that night. They were going to spend a week living together - let’s let them get used to each other. (By the end of the week, the hosts and the team were quite close.)

The host/guest situation must be comfortable, because comfortable controllable things allow for uncomfortable ministry things. When our volunteers have a comfortable place to stay and a good situation with their hosts, they are willing to venture out a little further in their evangelism. What we ask our volunteers to do is not easy. Let’s take away any and all barriers that might get in their way as they work. 

The next morning, though, we got down to business. I tried to give this meeting as much time as it could possibly need. Here were the things that I thought made the first meeting a success:

  • A strong opening devotion, directly connected to the coming week.
  • Laying out clear expectations.

◦       If you have an issue, tell me. 

◦       I make mistakes, this won’t be perfect.

◦       We must work together. We have to have safe environments to express our opinions and to help each other improve.

◦       This is a spiritual trip. Plan to do soul work.

◦       People in Rock Hill are dying without Jesus. Nothing else really matters.

  • Time to look over the document and ask questions.
  • Acknowledgement that things might change over the week.
  • The first of many, many, many, many “how to start a conversation about your faith” conversations.

This first meeting is really important, because it establishes many standards. It is also important because it starts that evangelism-style conversation. You can see the main conversation-starter handout we used at the Come-See-Me events here. It can be folded into a very small square and kept in a pocket. We worked really hard at getting the Kingdom Workers to start regular conversations and lead them toward handing out this piece of paper. 

Those 24 hours started all of that.