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NAMB volunteer team refines projects, plans new strategies

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The volunteer mobilization team of the North American Mission Board hit the ground running when the agency was formed last June. The combined summer missions efforts of the former Brotherhood Commission and Home Mission Board — now NAMB’s responsibility — already were in full swing.
By the end of the year, thanks largely to the stabilizing force of the volunteers themselves and their leadership networks, more than 100,000 Southern Baptist volunteers were involved in North American missions. And as the agency matures, the prospects for mobilizing missions volunteers continue to grow. Existing successes are being strengthened, and new opportunities are being developed to challenge even more Southern Baptists to join in reaching North America with the gospel.
“We do feel God’s hand is in the midst of what’s happening here, through the ‘Covenant for a New Century’ (convention-wide restructuring plan) and the formation of NAMB,” said Jim Burton, the agency’s director of volunteer mobilization. “It’s no accident that (NAMB President Bob Reccord) came into this and made volunteer missions a primary thrust, and had the confidence that we could have a dramatic increase in volunteerism.”
Volunteers will take the spotlight in many Southern Baptist churches Feb. 22 with the observance of Volunteers in Missions Sunday.
Burton said the emphasis in the early months at the North American Mission Board has been on continuing the strong support for existing ministries, while beginning to plot the course for the future.
“We have purposefully not made any rash decisions about any program areas we have inherited,” he said. “We have taken this first eight months to evaluate, to dream, and then to determine which strategies we need to take us forward.”
One of the new strategies affecting volunteerism is the Strategic Focus Cities initiative. Burton said Reccord envisions thousands of volunteers — through partnerships with state and local Southern Baptist groups — saturating two major United States metropolitan areas with the gospel each year through varied missions-action projects.
Burton called it a “God-sized vision,” but one that could benefit from the leadership experience developed through such efforts as World Changers, disaster relief, Missions Service Corps and ministry during the 1996 Olympics.
“We believe much of what we’re about right now is focusing us to a point that we support Bob Reccord’s objectives in impacting cities with the presence of volunteers,” Burton said, “and that’s exciting when you see God working in that.”
Burton also noted his own excitement about the opportunity of calling Southern Baptists to mission action. For three years prior to joining NAMB, he served as director of Men’s Ministries at the Brotherhood Commission, which joined the larger men’s movement in helping develop better husbands, fathers and Christians. Now, he said, the time has come for churches to challenge men — and women — to take the next step.
“In the ’90s, church and para-church organizations have done an outstanding job of motivating men about their faith, but we have not done a good job in getting men to actualize their faith,” Burton said. “I just think if we’re ever going to hit the new millennium with momentum, we need a faith that’s alive, and a faith that’s alive is tangible. I believe that means God is calling us to be on mission with him.”
Burton said he recently has found wisdom in the New Testament Book of James on the importance of a faith reflected by action.
“The church is suffering from an institutionalism that focuses on itself so much that the world does not see the faith inside the church because it does not go inside the church,” he said. “That’s why the world, particularly the Generation X crowd, wants to see a tangible faith: ‘Prove that your faith means something to you, and that you want to do it.’
“This is what James was teaching us. … He was saying if indeed we have a genuine faith, there should be a natural outflow of it in our lives.”
To assist churches in encouraging missions action, NAMB has enhanced its communications efforts. “On Site,” a new quarterly publication for adult volunteers, includes profiles of volunteers and mission projects and details of specific needs that exist. A similar publication is in the works for student volunteers.
A section on the NAMB web site (www.namb.net/vols) also is being developed as a primary source of information on volunteer missions opportunities and information.
“We’re looking at ways to improve communication with volunteers to affirm them, and to help them find all of the opportunities God would want them to explore,” Burton said.
For more information on opportunities for short- and long-term volunteer missions, visit the NAMB volunteer mobilization website, send e-mail to [email protected], or write: Volunteer Mobilization Team, North American Mission Board, 4100 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022. A toll-free number, 1-800-462-VOLS, also is available.

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  • James Dotson