By Rev. Stacy Auld
One of the most rewarding parts of my job as director of Spiritual Care at Houston Methodist Hospital is equipping and empowering volunteers in ministry alongside our professional chaplains.  For almost ten years I have had the privilege of overseeing our lay ministry program at the hospital, and upon reflection, here are some key components to the success of our program. 

  1. Engage: Recruit through story-telling and remembering a person’s baptism. When chaplains or current volunteers tell stories about the impact this ministry has had on them, others are inspired and want to serve.  I’ve also noticed that when we help others see a connection between their baptism and service there is a greater desire to participate and a deeper level of commitment. 
  2. Educate: Spend time on the front-end training volunteers on specifics of the ministry and setting expectations. We currently have a five-session training before the volunteer begins visiting patients, and we offer four continuing education events each year. The time we take to invest in the volunteers results in a greater investment by the volunteers.
  3. Communicate: Know how the volunteers are doing and regularly tell them how they are impacting the ministry/overall mission. This means checking in when they don’t show up, following up when we know they are dealing with something, and consistently giving them relevant information.  I send a short monthly e-newsletter with only 3-5 bits of information to keep them informed and feeling like they are part of our team. 
  4. Celebrate: Incorporate rituals into the program.  The first day of training we worship together and offer an anointing/blessing of the hands.  After the training, we formally commission the volunteers into ministry in our setting.  Annually we celebrate with an appreciation luncheon, and at the end of each year we have a service of recommitment so that our volunteers can consciously make a decision to serve another year. 
Stacy Auld is the Spiritual Director at Houston Methodist Hospital

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