Side-by-side

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21/12/2012 by Chris Green

Two-Volunteers-FramingI’ve been spending a bit of time recently with some local volunteers.  Non-Christian volunteers, working for a secular organisation.  And I’ve been rolling up my sleeves and being a volunteer too.  A bit – not as much as them.

The result is that I’ve been able to talk to them, as we’ve been doing stuff together: up ladders, getting soaked in the rain, or sorting out problems over a coffee.

None of it remotely Christian.  Not yet.

But here’s the thing – I’ve got to know these people by doing stuff with them.  They don’t really respect people who just watch or use their services – but roll your sleeves up and get stuck in, and you’re one of the crew and on first name terms.

Some people you can talk to face to face, but others (mostly the activists, often the blokes) you only really talk to side by side, as you’re painting a wall together, or clearing a gutter.

Pastors – do you want to make some local non-Christian contacts?  Find a local organisation that needs volunteers and get stuck in.  You’ll be on first-name terms in no time.

Pastors – do you want to blow it with your activists, and particularly the blokes?  Don’t volunteer. Let them do the heavy lifting, and you just watch.  They’ll leave you well alone, don’t worry.

Pastors – do you want to start some conversations in church?  Then create some meaningful hands-on jobs. Not getting people to help you in your garden – but maybe sorting out the garden of some elderly members, or replacing their kitchen units, or giving them a morning of DIY.  Create the jobs, get people to sign up – and sign up yourself.  Don’t just organise or watch, but do it. It doesn’t have to be grand – even joining the people putting away the chairs after church, you’ll find you can talk to them more easily.

And you’ll be amazed what you talk about when you’ve got your hands dirty, side by side.

Process questions

  • Are you tempted to watch other people do the heavy lifting? What reasons do you give for doing that?  What’s the price you pay?
  • What are the local groups who need volunteers, where you can get alongside some non-Christians, on equal terms?
  • What are the hands-on tasks you can create in church, that will help you to involve and get to know some of the activists?

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