By Sara Shelton of the North American Mission Board
ALPHARETTA, Ga. – When the Baptist Convention of New England (BCNE) came into possession of an old church building in Worcester, Mass., earlier this year, the staff knew exactly what they wanted to do with it.
“We were fortunate enough to have the building donated to us, and now we hope to turn it into a church planting center for training planters in the New England area,” explains Tim Buehner, evangelism consultant and mission mobilization leader for the BCNE.
Yet the task to renovate the building is daunting and costly, requiring everything from demolition and construction crews to painting, carpentry and masonry skills. Simply put—they can’t do it alone.
“We have a huge need and not enough resources,” Buehner explains, “I’m sure we’re not the only ones with this dilemma. There are extreme needs in areas like ours all over the nation where the majority of churches are small and pastored by bivocational leaders. In places like this, you can’t do everything on your own; you need a little help.”
That’s why Buehner chose to post the convention’s need on the North American Mission Board’s Volunteer Opportunities map. Located online (namb.net/volunteer-opportunities), NAMB created the tool to connect churches and associations that have needs like Buehner’s with volunteer mission teams who can help meet them.
The Volunteer Opportunities map is designed to be a useful tool for both churches in need and teams looking for ways to serve. As pastors, church planters and ministry leaders identify areas of their ministry or in their community where they could use some extra help, they can simply go online and submit their need on the map. The site allows them to be as specific as they want, including details like a summary of the project, how many teams are needed to serve, the duration of the project and more.
Then, as churches throughout North America begin praying and planning for upcoming short-term mission opportunities for their congregations, they can go online and search the site for needs their team might be able to meet. The map is customized by region, with each need represented by a dot on the map. Those searching for opportunities can go online, view the needs available, pray through these opportunities and easily connect with a place to serve.
“The map has made connecting churches and volunteers as simple as one click,” explains Susan Peugh, volunteer opportunities coordinator for NAMB. “We hope that by simplifying the connection process for both churches in need and volunteer teams looking for needs to meet, we’ll see more and more connections made and partnerships formed between churches.”
There are already more than 300 needs posted to the map and more are on the way. Southern Baptist state convention leaders, NAMB Send North America city coordinators, church planters and missionaries from across the U.S. and Canada are planning to utilize the tool going forward to connect and partner with other SBC churches and mission teams.
“Short-term mission teams encourage and expand the work of church planters and churches in underserved areas of North America,” says Jerry Daniel, NAMB’s LoveLoud team leader. “Often these trips will be a key factor in developing partnerships and focused prayer for cities and people groups in need. Serving together creates a deeper bond of fellowship and an opportunity to see God’s Spirit draw people to faith in Jesus.”
Lorna Bius, a LoveLoud missionary, is already encouraging church planters and leaders in the West Region where she serves to use the tool to connect with others through service and prayer.
“This is a great tool to serve as a connection point for those who want to ‘go,’ but don’t know where to start,” Bius says. “Churches love to send teams out to serve and see ministry work done in a different setting. This is a great way for them to discover places and people to serve. Dots on a map become real places to pray for and ministries to partner with in the future.”
Moving into 2014, the map will expand as new needs are posted and churches begin planning their short-term trips for spring and summer breaks. Additionally, NAMB hopes to see the tool utilized as a part of Crossover 2014 in Baltimore prior to the Southern Baptist Convention hosted by the city.