A WORD FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - SEPTEMBER 2017
I moved to New England in 1993. I had always been in bigger churches in a city and suddenly found myself the pastor of a small church of less than 20 people in a village with one paved street. I had a big vision. My church had a small budget and a limited volunteer base. It was clear I was going to have to find some outside help to move the ball forward in reaching that village for Christ. I called everyone I knew and asked them to bring a volunteer team to help us reach our village. For eight years team after team came to help repair the buildings, lead Bible clubs and sports camps, reach teens and lead special worship services not only in our little village, but in several other towns around us. We often had 8 to 10 teams a summer, so after 8 years we had hosted a lot of teams.
The church, and the community, responded well to these volunteer teams and that church grew to 90 in worship. Though I have not been the pastor of that church for more than 15 years, it is still a vibrant congregation involved in reaching their own community and in planting churches in nearby towns. Those volunteer mission teams set a high bar, and the church rose to the occasion and never looked back.
Volunteer teams serve for many different reasons. Sometimes they come from far away. Sometimes they are New England churches serving other New England churches. While some see themselves as the experts or heroes and perhaps think more highly of themselves than they should, most serve because they have a sincere desire to grow God’s Kingdom. They are looking for practical ways to make a difference for the Lord, and a week-long mission trip helps them do that. In all my years of hosting volunteer teams, I only had two bad experiences. The rest were overwhelmingly positive. I still urge church planters and pastors of smaller churches to utilize volunteer teams as much as they can. They can really make a difference.
I like to think that our relationship with all those volunteers was mutually beneficial. Not only did they help us, but we helped them think of ways they might reach their own communities with the Gospel. I recall one church from a rural Southern state coming to New England to help us host a Vacation Bible School. Our church was reaching many ethnic groups, and children from a wide variety of racial backgrounds were present. The church assisting us that week was primarily a white church. By the end of the week, their eyes were opened to a whole new group of people they could share Jesus with. They went home and began a Bible club to reach the children in a nearby trailer park where the residents were primarily non-Anglo. I’ve always felt our church helped their church become better witnesses by showing them how different races could worship together in unity. I could give other examples of churches that came to help us but went back home better able to reach their own community. One of the great values of using volunteer groups is that God uses the experience to grow everyone involved.
Volunteer teams also became great prayer warriors after they returned home. We could feel the power of their prayers when our church would have special situations that we asked them to join us in praying for. Many individuals on those teams also became financial supporters of our various mission projects, church plants and special outreach efforts. They provided a base of financial support that smaller churches in non-evangelized areas just could not produce on our own.
I could not imagine what my 24 years of ministry in New England would be like if I had not had faithful partners who stood with us in volunteering, praying and giving. Thank God for partners! As our movement has matured, we still enjoy having people come from far away. But we also pray that more of our healthier New England churches will find ways to serve and partner with other BCNE churches to advance the Gospel.
To request a volunteer mission team, go to www.bcne.net/request. If you have a team that wants to volunteer, see our list of current projects at www.bcne.net/needs. Together we can reach New England for Christ!
Your Missionary to New England,
Dr. Terry W. Dorsett
Executive Director, Baptist Convention of New England