I love volunteers and believe that they are critical to the Fellowship’s future. Why?
Prior to coming to InterVarsity, my passion for volunteers was shaped by three experiences. The first involved serving for three years as a Young Life staff volunteer. At the ripe age of 20, I became the team leader of a team of fellow volunteers. We planted a club and watched it grow to 150 weekly participants, a transformative experience for me. Several of my “kids” still support my ministry.
Second, at age 27, I became a World Relief Regional Director in a five-state region. My team’s task: resettle 1,000 refugees per year. U.S. State Department funds were inadequate for a staff-only model. Our strategy was to recruit church volunteers to host refugee families. A State Department audit told an encouraging story: For every public dollar granted, our office generated seven dollars worth of volunteer time.
Third, in my forties, I served as dean of Seattle Pacific University’s business school. Several programs were instituted that involved large numbers of volunteers, such as mentorships, service learning, and mandatory internships.
Application to InterVarsity
Utilizing volunteers is a growing missional issue for us. Recruiting and hiring staff is a painstaking and deliberate process. Even at the rate we are growing – 380 new staff in the past three years – it would take decades to place staff on the 4,000 campuses in the U.S. Volunteers allow us to be better stewards of both our mission and our donor resources.
Ministry opportunities are expanding. As we have become a more proactive planting movement, doors have opened on numerous campuses. Likewise, as our ministry to various niche communities has expanded – e.g. to artists, Greeks, athletes, internationals, and commuters – volunteer opportunities are increasing.
Perhaps most significantly, we already have a trained pool of eager volunteers to draw from. Each graduating student leader has been equipped to lead small groups, disciple students, and share the Good News. Each understands our values of missional outreach, multiethnicity, discipleship of the mind, and vocational stewardship.
New Strategic Plan
The new Strategic Plan (2012-17) calls for increased focus on volunteers in several areas:
- launching a new program, Ministry Partnership Development, to more intentionally involve our supporters in ministry;
- piloting chapter planting models staffed by volunteers who commit to serve a minimum of ten hours a week;
- utilizing volunteers to build existing chapters;
- piloting the deployment of five “faculty ambassadors,” (current faculty who will volunteer to travel to other campuses to serve as catalysts for new faculty chapters); and,
- exploring ways to recruit, train, and mobilize volunteers for Virtual Ministry (our new internet-based ministry).
As one honed by a volunteer ethos over many decades, I see great opportunity ahead for the Fellowship and am optimistic about the next steps on our journey. Let us be humble as we learn from other ministries.