Gathering a prayer team is critical for us as we begin the new community. There are those that pray on the ground in a local setting and those that are more distant. Our target is 100 people praying from outside the locality and this has been surprisingly simple to set up, the age of social media is your friend in this.
We have spread the net wide and have chosen a ‘zero policing’ policy, so I will not be checking up on who is following through on their commitment but have deliberately kept the bar low – pray intentionally at least once a month and I will commit to pray for them too, as well as informing them regularly. So the plan is as follows;
- 100 people in the wide net – these folk are gathered from friendships, contacts and social media. They commit to pray intentionally once a month and in return they receive information to fuel their prayer and I have committed to pray for them too. They receive information via email or a private Facebook group, maximum twice a month.
- 12 people in the boat – these 12 are close friends where I can share more deeply in the issues for prayer. These folk will be those that have shared a much deeper interest and are known to be warriors in prayer. This takes a while longer to set up and is still a work in progress, but vital.
- 3 Officers in charge – 3 prayer commandoes who meet to share guts and all, for prayer and encouragement.
It is impossible to know who wants to join prayer lists for ‘nosey faith encouragement’ but if people make a level of commitment, you must trust them. The close at hand people have to be trusted friends because you are sharing more personally. This is only right.
I have been blessed with a prayer team and whilst still in formation, we have seen many good answers to prayer and have known our arm is strengthened in ministry. We value our prayer support team, they are incredible.
Having worked in the third sector for a number of years, it has intrigued me as to how different organisations and people engage with volunteers. Standards vary, practices are diverse and the poor management of these crucial people often leads to poor retention rates. A few thoughts;
1) Treat them like precious gold – they are usually the most motivated and believe in what you are doing.
2) Treat them as you would a salaried staff member – why drop standards of care, support and management? These folk are precious.
3) Offer good support – they believe in you, do you believe in them?
4) They enhance your work – yet, many organisations see them as an imposition.
5) they will be your greatest ambassadors – they have chosen to work with you, to support you and to enhance your work. Treat them well and they will also tell the world how great you are.
One of the challenges of any presentation is the use of visual aids, do we use them or not. Today, powerpoint is in constant use and there is rarely an indoor presentation that does not have some form of electronic media to accompany it. However, not everyone is won over by powerpoint and its virtues, usually because they have witnessed more poor presenations than positive ones.
There is one school of thought that says that visuals distract from the message and that the only visual required is that of the message bearer…..you are the visual identity. Others scream for slide decks of quotes, images and text that support the speech bearer. Which route is best? Oratory skill is sadly lacking today and the need for visual is usually because the skill of oratory has been neglected or under developed…truth is, go with whatever helps the message stick with your listeners. What message do you seek to convey? Does the visual aid support or detract from this message? Answering these questions will help you determine the best approach.
The phrase “sitting in the stairwell” from Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0 has sat with me for some time now. It is a challenge to find those places in which we can sit, ready to serve. Looking for those places has led me to think of those people that have ‘sat in the stairwell’ on my behalf, those people that have chosen to place themselves in a place of service, those who have given me time and space, those that have been as a friend.
A few years back, I left a job that was special. It was one that had its challenges but the momentum was all forward and there were many positive results. There was the usual politics, but that goes for any role we have, and things were looking good for the future, despite various challenges on the table. However, during a long season where the politics, hurdles and personal things came together in an unnatural way, I chose to leave. My spiritual life was crumbling as the circumstances battered the fragile shell of mine – there was no alternative. No-one questioned my decision (to my face anyway) and I believed that there would be people to help me re-form my spiritual life as these were my friends. Unfortunately, it was not that easy and those I relied upon became too busy.
I entered a wilderness, yet one man whose path crossed my own chose to ‘sit in my stairwell’. In the 18 months that followed he spoke few words, he spent little time with me, but he provided me with everything I needed. He welcomed me into his tribe, he engaged my family, let me know he was there, encouraged involvement at my own pace and demonstrated that he understood my struggles. During this time, spiritual life returned and balance of life returned. I owe him a great debt as he was willing to sit in a place that my friends did not – that type of thing cannot be bought.
My friend has since moved on to new pastures but our paths crossed again the other week. It was a privilege to share with him in ministry and over lunch had an opportunity to thank him for sitting in my stairwell.
My friend has mentored me – albeit in an unusual way – and now I am looking for the opportunities to do the same for others.
One issue that raises its head again and again is retention of volunteers. I am sure we can all come out with stories of the good, bad and ugly but there are some things that are useful to remember – all said before but always worth repeating;
1) Communicate expectations well – no hidden agendas or additions to the list
2) Give plenty of notice to any changes/alterations
3) Treat them well – if you are not sure how, think of how you would like to be treated and do the same
4) Honour their commitment – thanks, praise and understanding goes a long way
5) Support them – in words and actions
6) Remember that sometimes it is right for them to leave – we all have seasons in our lives, and seasons change, treat them well and they may come back or better still be your best supporter in recruiting new volunteers
7) Be a person of integrity
There is no easy route but creating a team that people want to be a part of will help retain people. These are just a few thoughts to remind myself, hopefully it will help others too!