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Volunteers

Articles about serving and working with volunteers.

How Do I Set Up A Home Repair Team, Part I

Is your church considering or open to home repair as an outreach or mercy ministry? Or are you in the process of organizing? One of the most important steps in setting up your home repair team is determining how you will be organized. Over the next couple days, we will be sharing with you some descriptions of positions within a home repair team. This model represents a fairly sophisticated team, and is just one way of staffing, but our hope is that it's helpful in starting your service ministry or optimizing the team that you have in place already.

If you want this information in a complete document, download the PDF file. More information like this is available by signing up on the web site (no charge).

Part I - Leadership Team Member

Your Home Repairs leadership team should meet at least monthly to:

  • Discuss new projects
  • Review status of open projects
  • Set goals & direction for the ministry
  • Assign project responsibilities

In addition, for each project handled by your ministry, a leadership team member is specifically assigned to the project. When the project is assigned, the leadership team member is responsible for:

  • Managing the project if there is no Project Leader (PL) - the Project Leader position will be discussed in more detail in a future blog
  • Obtaining a list of volunteers and insuring they are contacted
  • Coordinating with the Project Leader and the Project Coordinator (PC) to establish a date for the project (see PC role information in Part 3)
  • Insuring that the status of the project is maintained in the Home Repairs Database (reporting project & volunteer information)
  • Assisting in scoping the project & making sure that your ministry coordinates with the homeowner

Read the rest of the series:

Part 2       Part 3


The Ministry Opportunity You May Be Sitting On

Churches are trying to get the most outreach impact they can from available resources, but there’s a tricky issue – available resource. On top of that, we know we have limited hours in a day and can feel it - palpably. Churches have to be smart and strategic in the Kingdom work they do to be good and faithful stewards of what God has given them.

Home Repairs GuySo here’s the punchline. For this opportunity, you may not need to think about starting a new ministry. Your church may already be sitting on top of one that already exists (or at least has the potential to exist) in your church! Think about this. Who’s the guy you call or would call if you had a widow in your church with a leaky faucet? Who is always helping out when something breaks or needs to get built. Does a face or two spring to mind? Odds are pretty good that this person may not be formally plugged in with a ministry and has trouble figuring out where and how to serve. Why wouldn’t you want that guy reaching out to more people in your congregation or your community? Maybe it’s time to turn ‘em loose!

Widow on new deckAnd you do that by starting a home repair ministry. A home repair ministry is an opportunity for your church to love on and serve your widows, single moms, elderly and disabled members, and to serve these same groups out in your community. In fact, once your team learns how to get referrals you may find what our Executive Director describes as a very odd phenomonon. People in your comumnity inviting your Christ-followers into their homes. How's that for an outreach opportunity? Cool, huh?

You’re probably thinking that this sounds good, but let’s get real, staff and ministry leaders don’t have time to throw at another ad hoc thing. The beauty of a home repairs ministry is that it’s designed to be lay-led. Past receiving the occasional update, staff doesn’t have to get further involved unless they want to.

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to get started, we have a library of content including ministry vision, how to get started, how and where to get referrals, project management, volunteer management and more. We like to think of it as a home repair ministry “in a box”. Get a Sneak Peek of what's available!

We also provide access to a network of churches with home repair ministries (right now mainly in Atlanta, but starting to spread nationally). Will you join us? We do not charge for the site (but you can make a donation if you are able). Check out what you get from Home Repairs Ministries

You can also click “Contact Us” near the bottom of this webpage to directly contact us with questions you might have.

Six Suggestions for Managing Volunteers

If someone were to ask you about the most critical resources that you need to carry out your ministry (or if you are considering starting a ministry), what would you answer? Would it be:

  • A place to meet and organize
  • A strong, engaged leader
  • Money to carry out your mission
  • Time

Volunteers on-siteWe know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the heart of any Christian ministry. But did you ever think about your volunteers being the life-giving blood cells carrying the oxygen (i.e. your ministry service) to where it needs to go? Are you pouring time and effort into your ministries' volunteers?

Whatever your particular ministry is, volunteer management and relationship building will be one of the key factors in your ministries' success and longevity. It is difficult to succeed if you are not recruiting, engaging, training and following-up with your volunteers in a systematic way.  Here are six suggestions for managing and growing your volunteers and improving your ministry impact.

1)      Screen your volunteers – This may seem like a strange thing to feature in a section on volunteer management, but it is a critical step for ministries focused on outreach and interacting with clients. Perform a background check and protect your clients AND the volunteer. Screen for potential problems on the up-front and save yourself and your volunteers from potential trouble.

2)      Keep track of your volunteers' skills in a database or book – For a ministry that is very multi-faceted, like a home repair ministry, it is very helpful to know what your volunteers' skills are and what kinds of jobs they can and cannot do. The church presents a wonderful diversity of giftedness. As Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians (4:16) - From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (NIV – emphasis mine). Knowing the skills of your volunteers gives you a chance to put them in projects where they can succeed. Remember to have your volunteers give you their schedule for service (when and how often) and honor it. By the way, we have a volunteer spreadsheet that we have used that your welcome to use if you sign up as a Ministry Partner.

Training sign

Photo courtesy of Cristian Galletti, freeimages.com)

3)      Train your volunteers and onboard them – Whatever your volunteer's skills are, they should be familiarized with how your ministry operates, what support they can expect from leadership, your program history, etc. Give them the information that they need to be productive and to determine if your ministry is the right one for them. Better to find these things out early and get the right people involved and not just warm bodies (although with creativity you can have unskilled laborers – of which I include myself - involved in cleaning up, setting up and feeding the other volunteers). If your ministry is not a fit then there certainly is another ministry home for the volunteer. Regardless of your volunteer's skill set, leave jobs with a significant potential for injury (i.e. the use of high ladders) to professionals.

4)      Recommend liability insurance if your ministry carries injury risk – Just like at home, injuries can occur when volunteering with a home repair ministry. Falling off ladders, tripping over cords and wires, and other injuries do happen to volunteers. If your volunteers are not covered for personal injuries, it is strongly advised that you clearly explain the necessity of carrying personal liability insurance prior to engaging in any home repair efforts. It is the obligation of a home repairs ministry to notify volunteers of the lack of personal liability coverage. To protect your ministry you should also have your volunteers sign a legal waiver form.

5)      Do not take on jobs that you lack the volunteer skills for (or lack the manpower to do the job quickly) – We try to never take on a project that takes more than one or two days. Long projects tend to sap the strength and morale of your team.

6)      Follow-up with your volunteers – Ask them if their skills are being utilized correctly. See if there are other roles that the volunteer might want to take on or learn. Look for opportunities to move volunteers into a leadership position (as appropriate). As with paying jobs the potential for leadership and/or growth can motivate your volunteers to stick with you.

By taking the time to help your volunteers thrive and succeed you will ultimately encourage them to stick with you for the long haul and help your ministry serve with excellence.

Five Ways to Avoid The Home Repairs Ministry Blooper Reel... Or Worse!

Our home repairs ministry team has learned some valuable lessons in our service and also received some great advice from other churches. The old truism has proven accurate – experience really is a great teacher. We’ve (with the help of some churches) taken some of that experience and synthesized it into a list of ministry do’s and don’ts. If you are just starting a home repairs ministry (especially), or even if your church has been at it for a while, we hope that these will help you avoid unnecessary pain!

First, a brief bit of background. Our home repairs ministry launched, in 2002, as a part of Perimeter Church’s Community Outreach ministry. Our mission - to address internal church and local community home repair needs. In our 9 years of existence, we have helped hundreds of people through our many projects.

And we’ve had some miscues. For one project we had a high school group commit to bring a dozen or so students on a Saturday morning. We were renovating a house in the inner city of Atlanta. The Project Leader spent hours on Friday afternoon getting tools and materials loaded and ready and headed out very early on Saturday to meet them. About ten minutes after start time the group had still not shown. They never did show. We learned a powerful lesson that day. NEVER fail to contact the people or group close to the project date and make sure to get a projection on numbers. If you’ve never had that problem before, count your blessings and start calling your volunteers shortly before the project, whatever service or mercy ministry you are involved in. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Looking back, it was in some ways a funny story. But there can be profound spiritual repercussions to a bad service experience. Remember, we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ when we go to serve a client. If the client is not a believer, our outreach could actually have the opposite effect and sour their receptivity to the gospel! Despite the best and purest intentions, doing the wrong thing, or not doing the right thing, can also potentially lead to embarrassment, disgruntled volunteers and (shudder) legal issues. By putting safeguards and processes in place you can make your ministry more effective, fruitful and impactful. In addition, your volunteers will enjoy their work and be more likely to stay with the ministry.

So, in the spirit of making your community outreach and home repairs projects more fruitful, we present the following list of 5 key do’s and don’ts. While not an all-encompassing guide, I hope that these will help make your ministry more effective.

Don't1. Don’t assume the homeowner knows what the plan is. Sit down with him/her and review the Scope of Work that your group will be focusing on. Have the homeowner sign the “Scope of Work” agreement.

Having an agreed-upon, thorough Scope of Work with the homeowner helps establish accountability and sets expectations. Because the homeowner knows what to expect you significantly reduce the risk of potential frustration and a bad witness.

Don't2. Don’t underestimate the cost of repairs. This is especially critical as your funding could be coming from an external source, including the homeowner. It is much better to overestimate what you need than underestimate. A home repairs ministry should have contingency plans when a repair has increased costs.

Do3. Do include the homeowner in any decision-making that may arise. This affirms the dignity of the homeowner and that the property is his/hers. Changes to a home can get emotional, so when in doubt, ask.

Do4. Do repairs while the homeowner is present. Again, show respect for the homeowner and protect yourself from unfair accusations by making sure that the homeowner is aware of all work being done.

Do5. Do connect your efforts with other local groups already doing home repair. Amplify your ministry impact and display unity in the body of Christ by teaming with other church ministries on repair jobs. As Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us “…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (ESV)

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” strong>(ESV)

If you'd like access to the full list of Do's and Don'ts, as well as other no-cost information to start or grow a ministry, register for access to our ministry library today.

What's In Your toolbelt?

I was on a project the other day and some of the guys had the nicest tools money could buy. Those of us who can afford the really good stuff can put it to good use once the basement is finished out. Thanks to all the amateurs learning how best to use good tools for great purposes - helping someone who really needs a hand. All it takes is time. Can you spare a little of that? How about taking your son with you to serve or a single mother's son that needs a tool guy to look up to?

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