Tag Archive | Volunteering

On Valuing One Another

Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes this week for the NJC blog

The other day whilst doing a bit of online research into ‘how to motivate volunteers’ I came across a phrase that leapt out at me:

Nothing communicates value more than personal contact

Most people under 20 years old probably spend more time communicating regularly with people they don’t see face to face than the people they live with. It is most likely that when I’m chatting to my friends’ teenage daughter online giving her my undivided attention, she is simultaneously engaged with conversations with 6 other people and attempting to do her homework! Social networking has opened up the possibility of having thousands of ‘friends’ but somehow no one has managed to create the intimacy and ‘feel good’ factor that a face to face meeting with a friend who has taken time out for coffee and a chat, creates.

Everyone needs to know that they matter to someone.

So many people who come to us, especially to the drop in, have lost a sense of their personal worth. Here at the Jesus Centre we don’t just want to post the strap line “Jesus Centres are a place where everyone is valued” on our website or in our vision statement but to also communicate it through the way we value everyone who comes through the door including our staff and volunteers. We place great emphasis on connecting with each of our visitors face to face, whether in the Café, drop in, English conversation course, or art group. That is because so many visitors who come to us are experiencing deep loneliness from a lack of personal contact and real friends.

If someone comes in to the Centre who has a problem with finding accommodation we will make sure someone spends time with them one-to-one, listening to their situation and signposting them on if necessary. We try as much as possible to ensure we have enough volunteers on duty to release someone to spend time listening one-to-one to a visitor. Ask any GP and they will probably tell you that they have several incurable patients who don’t come because they are physically ill but because they have no one else to talk to about their worries. Here at the Jesus Centre we offer a free Listening service where people can find a confidential, listening ear.

Back to the article I was reading; people’s motivation improves if they feel that they and what they are doing matters. This is why we give visitors an opportunity to become helpers, providing an essential support role behind the scenes. It improves someone’s self worth tremendously if they are able to become a contributor and not just a recipient of help.

Some years ago I asked an older guy who had been a long-term rough sleeper why he came and had lunch with us on a Sunday rather than with the local homeless provision; I’ll always remember what he said:

Because everywhere else they serve a meal to us, here you sit down and eat the meal with us.

Maybe if we all used the time we spent ‘friending’ people over the internet on spending time, real face-to-face time, with someone we know who needs a listening ear, we’d all feel much more valued and connected to each other.

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A Culture of Charity

I was hungry, and you formed a committee and discussed my hunger.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick, and you knelt and thanked God for your own health.
I was homeless, and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely, and you left me alone to pray for me.

This unsettling quote is pinned to the noticeboard of the Jesus Centre office I’m typing in now. It’s provoked me.

I often momentarily pass many people in the corridors- café customers, Jesus Centre group members, skills class students, homeless drop-in visitors, volunteers, art-deco architecture admirers, admin staff, room hirers, event riggers, you name it. All of us have a part to play, in some varying measure, in the work of the Jesus Centre – meeting need, building capacity and supporting the work of the Jesus Army.

However, when working in the back office I sometimes feel a mile away from the ‘sharp end’ of the work, out of contact with some of the people we’re here to serve- the less fortunate of society, the hungry and the homeless. The quote above seems too close for comfort. On the other hand, I know how the ‘sharp end’ volunteers can get bogged down when they feel all they’re doing is trying to deal with a never-ending flood of ‘people problems’.

In a charitable organisation like us there’s always a risk that volunteers at any position in the team can lose a sense of purpose in what they do, we can become disillusioned or tired. The minutiae of tilling the ground eclipses the fruit of our labours as vocation loses vision and becomes weary work. I’ve seen it happen.

So what’s the solution?

Don’t lose heart.

It was John Wesley who said:

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can

I can do what others can’t, they can do what I can’t. The fundraiser needs completely different skills to the centre manager, and the guy who runs the alcoholics support group shouldn’t have to worry about the bills. We must all do very different things to fulfil the one vision. The key is to remember why we do what we do and to appreciate one another.

So yes, form a committee if you must. But also feed the hungry.

Furthermore, don’t just feed the hungry, but work against the causes of poverty.

Yes, help people into financial security but also enrich their lives with the good news of God’s just society, His family, His community.

And going full circle- tell the homeless of God’s love but don’t send them away with empty bellies. Maybe to a hungry belly the gospel tastes like a warm meal.

Courageous faith in action through volunteering

Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes this week for the NJC blog

Jayne with Sid

Jayne & Sid Elliott

This year is our Church’s slogan is ‘Courageous faith and action’. As part of this the Jesus Centre has set targets to double our volunteer base from 160-320 active volunteers and to increase the number of under 35 year olds volunteering from 9% to 30% of our volunteers.

The other day I scribbled a list of ways volunteering could be a way of putting courageous faith into action, by believing that:

  • We do have time to volunteer  even if our commitments on paper say we don’t
  • God can use us to touch people with His love, however inadequate we feel for the task
  • Our actions will proclaim the gospel and men will be saved.
  • Through volunteering God will train our character by stretching us and getting us to do things outside of our comfort zones
  • The Holy Spirit’s challenge is to discover where we go next with the Jesus Centre vision and that we could be part of the answer.

However, something I read the other day reminded me that if our activity is to be effective it must be rooted in God. The biggest challenge to me is to not lose sight of that truth in the midst of all of our activity. We must never simply work for God without making sure we know Him.

So, I’m believing that we will have met our volunteer increase targets by the end of the year; not just because of what we at the Jesus Centre will do to recruit, train, inspire, look after and keep existing volunteers, but because the Holy Spirit will work in each of our hearts and challenge us to do what we can & let Him do the rest.

One final prayer,

Lord Grant me the Serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
The Courage to change the one I can,
And the wisdom to know that person is me.

Amen.

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