As Christmas approaches, many churches are directing their attention toward local, national, and international outreach efforts. Christianity Today and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company recently conducted the joint national Outlook for Outreach study, collecting responses from 1,486 church leaders and volunteers involved in outreach. Based on the results of this study, we've identified three key tips to help your church safely engage in outreach efforts this holiday season.
Nearly all churches (96 percent) are serving those in their local community, especially in feeding and clothing the poor. The majority of these churches say that one of the biggest obstacles to doing outreach is finding enough volunteers. However, 41 percent of churches report that volunteerism is up for outreach ministries. How can your church minimize risk in selecting and utilizing volunteers?
Take greater precautions with minors. If a minor is injured while volunteering because of the church's failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the selection or supervision of its workers, the church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligence. When screening minors, contact local charities or organizations to see what method they use for screening and selecting students younger than 18.
Know your volunteers. Once you have selected your volunteers, try to get to know them. Communication tends to flow more naturally if there is some history behind the relationship. Help your volunteers warm up to each other by holding an icebreaker before the event.
2) On the road
Of the 58 percent of churches in America that provide hands-on assistance for causes throughout our country, 75 percent of them engage in national disaster relief efforts. More than half of churches send teams on in-country mission trips (54 percent), and these expeditions typically require the use of dependable vehicles and drivers.
Obtain the required license. Most states require a commercial driver's license (CDL) for driving buses and large vans, so check with your local motor vehicles department before a road trip.
Examine driving records. Acquire candidates' driving records. Choose people without reckless driving citations or multiple moving violations. Your ministry may be judged negligent for allowing someone with a poor driving record to operate a vehicle.
3) Unfamiliar Territory
A majority of churches (70 percent) are involved in international outreach efforts. The survey showed 53 percent travel abroad to physically assist with overseas building projects, including homes, churches, schools, medical clinics, and orphanages. Churches are less hands-on in addressing unemployment and preventing crime and gang-related violence in their own communities. Whether traveling abroad or engaging in potentially risky local outreach activities, the safety of your volunteers is paramount.
Know the lay of the land. Learn everything you can about the targeted outreach area. The more you know about your surroundings, the better you'll be able to navigate the area and keep your volunteers safe.
There's safety in numbers. Determine many people you need for a particular ministry before you head out. Make sure your group will be safe with your designated number of volunteers. If you're in an unfamiliar area, only travel in groups of three or more.
A Worthwhile Blessing
Adhering to these outreach safety protocols will be well worth your effort. According to 62 percent of respondents, the number one result of serving others is a sense of maturing discipleship among those involved. Another added benefit: more than one-third (35 percent) of the respondents say that more previously unchurched people now attend their church as a result of their outreach efforts.
To learn more about the results of theOutlook for Outreachstudy, download the free Executive Summary and supplementary infographic at ChurchLawAndTaxStore.com.
Adapted from "Simple Tips to Creating a Safe Outreach Ministry."
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