Short-term volunteer projects have the best long-term local impact through one or both of these activities: 1) Finding and connecting seekers to local believers, 2) Encouraging and strengthening existing believers and churches.
Finding and Connecting Seekers: The best volunteer teams create activities that allow them to sift through dozens or even hundreds of new acquaintances and connect those who show interest in knowing more about Jesus to local believers. Ministry is about relationships and because relationships are very difficult to keep up after the volunteer team goes home, the team should find and facilitate relationships between seekers and local believers. In developing a ministry strategy, each team’s emphasis should be to include evangelistic minded local believers in activities that identify seekers and invite them to events that would be attractive only to seekers. For example, invite friends (that you meet through English conversation groups, service projects, or casually while traveling) to a group discussion on a culture’s values or the Bible, a worship service, or the showing of a Christian movie. This would help to identify the seekers. We can assume that anyone attending these events has a higher interest in spiritual things than the general population. The goal should be to connect those who attend these events with local believers by including local believers in any of these activities.
Another way to help seekers identify themselves, is to provide them with website addresses with gospel information so they can explore on their own time and contact a church if they would like to learn more. This information could be printed on business cards, photos of volunteers, New Testaments, or even copies of the Jesus Film in the local language and distributed to anyone a volunteer meets.
Encouraging and strengthening existing believers and churches. The second way to strategically impact a people group is to encourage and develop local churches. Often the sharing of life, mutual encouragement, praying together, and simple service projects are valuable ways for volunteer teams to be a blessing to a local church. Also providing training or equipping seminars that develop needed skills, if done well, can benefit local believers. Community development activities like hosting medical clinics, digging wells, and orphan care are best done in partnership with local churches, because a local church is essential to meet a person’s community and spiritual needs on a day-to-day basis. This is so important that if there is no local church in an area a volunteer team would like to serve, it is better to switch to another area than to try to have lasting impact without local church partnership.
What are other ways that you’ve seen short-term team strategically impact a local people group for the gospel?
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