Having a disaster ministry is the best way your church can prepare for future events and care for those impacted by disasters in your community. I have previously written about how to start a disaster ministry at your church, but setting up the ministry is just the beginning: you need to train volunteers to keep the ministry running and be ready to assist when disaster hits.
Below are some key principles to keep in mind as you build a volunteer disaster ministry and prepare volunteers to serve in moments of crisis that are so important to demonstrating God’s love for the most vulnerable.
Communicate the Vision
The process of volunteer development begins before you ever start recruiting. Having a robust theology of disasters—understanding why disaster response and survivor care matters to God and to your church—and communicating it clearly to your church is the foundation of all you will do in this ministry. Successful volunteers will understand why this ministry is important and how it connects to their faith. Volunteers need a sense of purpose and ownership to remain motivated in their service and to grow spiritually through it.
Once the groundwork has been laid, find opportunities to keep communicating the vision on a regular basis. When disasters hit locally or appear in the news, connect them to the work you’re doing in your own disaster ministry. Once your ministry has a few disaster responses under its belt, invite responders and survivors to share their testimonies of how they saw God at work in the midst of catastrophe. These are great ways to help people understand the importance of this kind of ministry and demonstrate what your church is preparing for. By keeping your church and your volunteers excited and engaged, you’ll help keep the dust from collecting on your plan.
Build a Leadership Team
As you begin to build the volunteer ministry, identify a “champion”—someone to help others stay motivated in their commitment to a safety plan in the church. This person should have a strong commitment to disaster ministry and will be the point person for all your volunteers. They should be someone your church can count on: a self-starter, someone others respect, someone with strong leadership skills as well as a passion for serving others in times of crisis and a giftedness in that area. This person should be specifically recruited, approved, and empowered by senior leadership in your church.
Then you will want to assemble a team of 6-10 volunteers to form the disaster ministry team. This group will be in charge of assessing your church’s disaster risks and setting ministries in place to prepare for and respond to those risks. They should be representative of all the ministries and operations of your church. If your church is small, one way to achieve this could be to bring together a group of already-active leaders from across your existing ministries. Disasters impact every area of your church, and a diverse team will most effectively understand how your existing ministries can be used in this context. Additionally, you never know who will be impacted personally by a disaster, so a leadership team approach ensures that even if one or more leaders are directly affected, there will be others ready to lead.