Anybody Out There? Get Them Out of the Pews and Into Ministry
By: Sherri Gragg
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the local church and according to studies conducted by the American Psychological Association, volunteering is good for the mental and physical health of individuals as well.
Even so, pastors regularly struggle to mobilize a strong volunteer force beyond the “faithful few.” One couple from First Palestine UMC, Danny and Dorenda Smith, are among those dedicated servants who show up week in and week out with a heart to serve.
“They are tireless, dedicated servants of the church,” said First Palestine Pastor Alex Lupo.
And now, Danny and Dorenda are ready to help you as they offer pastors and lay leaders fresh wisdom to incorporate into their plea for volunteers.
1. Let Love Lead the Way
Danny and Dorenda lead Methodist Mission Weekend at FUMC Palestine. Danny teaches Sunday School. Dorenda sings in the praise team and prepares all of the praise media.
They both serve at Lakeview. Danny is the Chair of the Lakeview building committee, and Dorenda donates her gifts as an interior decorator. It is a lot of service with one common source of inspiration, energy, and drive- the love of Christ.
“We love Christ and we want to do that with whatever gift we have. Dorenda is good at singing and organizing and I am good at not singing and organizing,” jokes Danny. Gifts may differ but Danny and Dorenda know there is no true service apart from love.
2. Gifts are Meant for Sharing
Danny is a retired structural engineer who found new life for his gifts in the service of the church. Lupo refers to him as the “Unofficial Facilities Manager.” He and Dorenda both have a heart for suffering families as well, donating their skills and gifts as they lead Methodist Missions weekends, a program that helps with essential home repairs for people in need. While Danny tackles the logistics of the projects, Dorenda draws on her gifts as an interior decorator to add the finishing touches. “It is a blessing to give to others and share our gifts,” Danny reflects. “I can’t preach but I can build things and Dorenda can get it organized.”
3. See a Need, Meet a Need
Churches thrive when members begin to take ownership of them. “Service feels like a very natural thing to do,” Dorenda said. “If you see a need, don't wait for someone to sit by and take care of it. Either meet it or find someone to fix it.”
4. Invite Others to Serve Alongside You
Personal responsibility is key in a volunteer force, but the Smiths know that no one can do it all alone. Over the years, Dorenda has learned the importance of inviting her fellow church members to serve alongside her. “As I get older, I am more aware of the gifts and skills of others and really encourage others to express themselves and give back. My team has painted 19 houses in the past several years. “Every time we are together, people always comment on how wonderful it is to work together as a group with a goal in mind. It is a good way to build relationships outside the pews.”
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Something New
Eight years ago, Danny and Dorenda helped begin FUMC Palestine’s Methodist Mission Weekend ministry. Following the model of U.M. Army, the Smiths lead groups of volunteers to build wheelchair ramps and undertake essential repair and remodeling projects for families in need. During the life of the ministry, the dedicated volunteers have worked on 110 homes and logged over 10,000 volunteer hours.
“Any time you are able to give a gift, the people receiving the gift are blessed,” Danny said, “but it is also a blessing to everyone involved. Methodist Mission Weekends have been very well received in the community.”
6. Jump Onboard with a Vibrant Established Ministry.
The Smiths have donated countless hours to Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. Lakeview President and CEO, Matt Idom, calls their generosity and investment “critical factors in the renaissance” of the camp.
The Smiths were drawn to partner with the ministry because of the wonderful work the staff is doing with kids. “Lakeview is such an incredible gem that so many in the UMC have not yet explored,” said Dorenda, “The camp is blessed with the leadership of Matt Idom and Brad Doherty.
Danny is excited to be part of a ministry that is changing lives. “In order to retain kids within the church, you need at least five individuals who become important in their lives. The people these kids meet at Lakeview set the bar pretty high.”