As the Crisis Response Director for Send Relief, my objective is to help local churches in the United States understand the importance of training their volunteer teams in disaster relief and partnering with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network.
Preparation is a crucial part of ministry because it empowers us to be more effective as we seek to be used by God to reach and minister to others. The wisdom writer in Ecclesiastes 10:10 told us, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success.” Preparing the edge by sharpening the blade will enable the tool to be more successful, just as training and discipleship help believers to serve more effectively in response to the survivors of disasters.
In light of this, here are my top 10 reasons I believe churches need to be well-versed in disaster relief efforts:
- Training prepares us by giving us a better understanding of the nuances of different kinds of disasters and the varying needs that arise as a result during times of crisis.
- Proper training equips us to respond in appropriate and effective ways during the emergency itself.
- Coaching in this area prepares us to understand our role as part of a larger crisis response team. Emergency managers often list untrained volunteers as one of their greatest problems in times of disaster. At Send Relief, we will empower you to become a part of the solution instead of a potential hindrance.
- Training enables us to sharpen our abilities to be efficient as we serve and to be an asset in response efforts. Spontaneous volunteers typically lack familiarity with situational assessments and incident management. Because of this, they usually end up being in the way, rather than providing meaningful help.
- Preparation helps us to understand little-known hazards and safety concerns in disaster zones. Untrained volunteers are much more likely to be injured due to being unaware of risk factors.
- Training prepares us to understand some of the trauma experienced by disaster survivors, so that we can offer appropriate and intentional compassion in our responses.
- Training prepares our hands to be ready to serve effectively. Becoming trained equips us to best utilize our giftedness and specific skillsets to respond in times of crisis.
- Training allows us to gain more knowledge to better prepare us to serve successfully. Untrained volunteers are often unprepared to work long, stressful days in austere and rugged living conditions. Training helps volunteers understand the best attire and equipment needed to serve safely.
- Affiliation with a credentialed and recognized disaster response group enables better security within disaster areas. Untrained volunteers create atmospheres where scam artists, who seek to prey on hurting and vulnerable people, can gain access more readily to disaster zones under the guise of volunteering.
- The final and greatest reason to train is that God deserves our best in all that we do and to achieve the best requires discipline, effort and knowledge. Trainings are an opportunity to gain experience as believers, so when God calls, we are ready.
Every Southern Baptist state convention has a disaster relief ministry that offers annual training events to help volunteers serve effectively and appropriately following a crisis event.
Southern Baptist disaster relief training prepares volunteers to serve by:
- Giving an understanding of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work and history.
- Laying a biblical foundation for compassion ministry.
- Sharing important information about disasters and crisis relief work.
- Teaching the right way to deploy in times of disaster.
- Instilling empathy for victims, so that their compassion offers genuine help.
- Providing responders with tools that will equip them to listen well to hurting survivors.
- Allowing them to discover where their gifts and abilities can be best utilized.
- Preparing them to serve in strategic hands-on ministries that meet critical needs.
- Instructing volunteers on best safety practices in disaster zones.
- Focusing their ministry on sharing the hope of Christ appropriately.
Crises will come. Therefore, let me encourage you—be prepared to serve well by being trained to serve effectively. Disaster survivors deserve that. Other disaster responders deserve that. But most of all, our God deserves that!