My last year of college, I had the privilege of overseeing 20-plus weekly outreach ministries to the greater Chicago area. Our programs included a sports ministry, refugee outreach, hospital visitation, tutoring, street evangelism, and soup kitchen ministry. I witnessed the breadth and scope of the impact such ministries can have on the communities they serve.
However, anyone who has participated in outreach ministries also knows how complicated they can be logistically. Outreach ministries expose the local church to unique liabilities, such as transportation. Inner-city ministries like the ones I was involved with required transportation to and from the church, and drivers were nearly always volunteers. How can you provide meaningful service in another community, and yet maintain a level of protection for your volunteers? Use the following simple tips to help you plan properly, so that you can focus on meeting the needs of your neighboring communities.
Know Your Destination
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.
Know your volunteers. Try to get to know your volunteers. Communication tends to be easier if there is some history behind the relationship. Even if it's just an icebreaker before the event, your volunteers will feel more at ease with each other.
Safety in Numbers
Have enough people. Your safety depends on the amount of people needed for a particular ministry. Before you head out, make sure your group will be safe with your designated number of volunteers. Depending on where you're going, you may want to split up into groups of three at the smallest.
Screen All Volunteers
Drivers need required license. Most states require a commercial driver license (CDL) for driving buses and large vans; check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles.
Obtain driving records. Obtain 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.
Take greater precautions with minors. If a minor is injured while volunteering, the church may be legally responsible on the basis of negligence if the injury resulted from the church's failure to exercise a reasonable degree of care in the selection or supervision of its workers. Also, when screening minors, contact local charities or organizations to see what their method is for screening and selecting students under 18.
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