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4 Steps To Engaging High-Capacity Volunteers

One the most challenging aspects of running a ministry is utilizing high-capacity volunteers effectively. We have heard stories of the corporate CEO who volunteers only to be stuck stuffing envelopes. That is a terrible and discouraging use of time and talent. How do we place motivated volunteers in the right place, doing the right things, so they are inspired by their service and involvement with our ministry?

Here are four steps I use:

1. Qualify the person: I like to have a one-on-one meeting with every high-capacity volunteer to ask a few key questions and to assess their fit for ministry:
• When in your faith journey did you become passionate about helping the extreme poor (our mission)?
• What is your occupation?
• What talents and expertise will you bring for the ministry?

I am looking for synergies and opportunities for alignment between their spiritual and workplace experience and our volunteer needs.

2. Explain the mission and needs. Many volunteers know far less about our mission than we think they do. I spend 30 minutes or more explaining our mission, vision and transformational model. I want to find out what part of our ministry resonates with them and connect them as close to those aspects that excite them most.

3. Present the SHAPE Model to help volunteers identify their talents and gifts. Part of the problem with placing high capacity volunteers in the right places is that sometimes they don’t always know what they want to do. For the last six months, I have been using the SHAPE Model and I’ve seen some amazing results. This model helps people self identify which role they might want to explore.

SHAPE 5 types of people BH is looking forThe SHAPE Model is made up of 5 categories of volunteers.
S: Sage. A sage is someone who brings wisdom or years of expertise to the organization. As I am describing the SHAPE Model to the prospective volunteer, I usually say: “I would consider you a Sage because of your expertise in Peru or your understanding of non-profit finances.”
H: Helper. These are people who want to get their hands dirty. They’ll do just about any work a leader asks them to do.
A: Ambassador. An Ambassador excels as a resource for connection. They know a lot of people and know people we need to know.
P: Philanthropist. Do I need to say anything about this category? Tap into their unique enthusiasm to contribute for priceless results.
E: Executive Leader. An executive leader is someone who demonstrates an understanding of servant-style leadership of a team or a committee.

Most importantly, we have to ask the potential volunteer, “Which one(s) of these do you think best represents your giftedness. If they say,” I am a P.” I know they have just given me permission to ask them for a contribution. If they say “A”, then I’ll ask them to throw a party and invite their friends and colleagues, and I’ll take a few minutes at the party to explain what and how we do our mission.

4. Ask for and give grace.
Finally, I ask the high-capacity volunteer for grace. I say, “It’s my desire to enable you to have the greatest impact possible on helping the extreme poor. I want you to feel the pleasure of serving the poor while using the talents and gifts God has given you. But the process is not a science, it’s an art. If I put you in the wrong place the first time, please let me know. The next ask will be more on target. If you’ll give me a little time, and some grace, I’ll do my best to connect you for maximum joy and effectiveness. ”

For one of our most valuable volunteers, it took three different roles before he was fully engaged. Now he saves our organization thousands of dollars in doing meaning work that blesses him and blesses the poor.

Today we are lot better at connecting people to our vision and mission. How have you learned to better engage volunteers? Share your stories and comments below.

The Story of Jyoti – Dancer, Prostitute, Now on the Path to Freedom

Jyoti began dancing at traditional Indian weddings at the age of 18.  Her parents died a year earlier, her older brother is under-employed, her younger sister is seriously ill, and because the family is poor – her younger brother can’t even attend high school.  All these young people live with their grandmother, but she was very old and frail.

Dancing was the first step in the proverbial slide down to a labyrinth of darkened corridors.  Propositioned by drunken wedding celebrants, Jyoti considered her options and could not see the lair she was entering into.

“The money looks good and what harm can come from sex?” she thought to herself.  She willingly, almost innocently, gave herself over to prostitution to provide for her family.

However, it wasn’t long until the inviting veil of money was lifted and the evil face of prostitution became reality; chemical and physical abuse, shame and slavery.  Jyoti knew she needed to get out; she could see down the road to where this was leading and she realized she had made a huge mistake.  But how could she get out?  To whom could she turn?

Jyoti remembered an aunt who went to Christian church.  The aunt talked about how the church had helped her, so Jyoti thought maybe she could get some help, too.

She showed up at the church, crying as she relayed her story.  The women counselors put their arms around her and shared that there is hope in Jesus.  They also shared the good news that they had a home where she could live and receive help until she was safe and found a new job.

Last month, Jyoti became Bright Hope’s first resident at our safe house in India.  It is a secure location away from pimps and family members who might force her back into prostitution.  Jyoti will receive Biblical counseling and soon enter into a jobs training course.  Jyoti is finding redemption, forgiveness, love, acceptance and Hope.

Bright Hope was able to open this church-run safe house because of your prayers and generous gifts. During the next few months, more women will choose to leave prostitution.  A raid on a brothel is planned very soon.  This raid will remove any girl under the age of 18 and offer them residency at the safe house.  Investigations by local police say there may be up to 20 girls ages 18 and under in this one brothel alone.

Will you do three things to help us continue this ministry?

  1. Pray for the raid between now and Dec. 31st.  Pray for the police to act responsibly and not tip off the brothel.  Pray for the under-aged girls to be found and rescued, and for the older women to accept our offer of help and a home.  Pray for the funding and government licensing of the safe house.
  2. Become a HOPE BUILDER FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING VICTIMS.  You will be the first to receive photos of rescued girls, stories of repaired lives, and prayer requests for those not yet freed.  For only $30/month you will help free girls and restore their lives.  $65/month and $100/month options are available.
  3. Show a film on Human Trafficking.  At Bright Hope we recently showed the film “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls”.  This emotional and impactful documentary touched the hearts of everyone who saw it.  Many tears were shed; people were angry, sad, and heartbroken by the lives destroyed by this evil work.  Bright Hope would like to bring this 90 minute documentary to your group of 50 or more.  We will help debrief the audience and answer questions after the film.  I know it will be an incredible informative event for your group or church.

Contact Bright Hope on the web at or phone 224-520-6100 (ask for Madelynn Reyes).

Stunned by Evil…

One of my most startling memories of seeing hatred manifest itself into violence was while I was traveling to Russia during a very cold winter in the early-nineties.  A colleague and I were visiting a local outdoor market in a large town.  There were all kinds of vendors selling food and clothing.  It was cold, cloudy and bleak.   I was looking for a Russian hat called an ushanka, a warm hat that covers the ears and is turned up in front.   As I was busy trying various hats and haggling over the price, off in the corner of my right eye, I noticed a rough looking man and a young attractive girl arguing.

Before I could even turn I saw this big burly man with a brown winter coat and black Russian hat, reach for the woman’s throat.  It was violent and deeply disturbing; I had never seen anything like it before. Seared in my mind is seeing the anger in this man’s face and his powerful hand reaching out to grab the girls throat.

A couple of people started to shout but most people carried on with their business.  I was momentarily frozen and couldn’t figure out if the man was just fooling around or if this was real.  “Should I get involved or stay back?” I asked myself.

I started to move toward them, when a person who obviously knew the man intervened and broke the man’s grip on the woman.  The young woman fell backward.  Her purple face now turning pale white as blood rushed back into her head.  She was stunned, unable to cry because of the shock and obvious fear of her attacker.

The incident was over as quickly as it began, but the impression on me has lasted for decades and has changed my life.

Afterward as I thought about the incident, I became increasingly disappointed with my slow reaction to the violence I was witnessing.  Yes, I was young and had never been exposed to such violence before.  But I thought my reaction was far too slow and that woman could have gotten seriously hurt if not for others who stepped in to help.

So, I made a commitment to myself that day that in the future I would react as fast as possible to any kind of violence I might witness.   Obviously wisdom has to be employed in all such cases, but I don’t want to be someone standing on the sidelines watching evil overcome good because I was afraid or unsure.

I want to be available…to be an agent for good, both physically and spiritually.

Romans Chapter 12 says “Overcome evil by doing good”.  In order to fulfill this scripture we have to be willing to take action.  I don’t believe God is requiring us to become super heroes and physically save everyone in need.  But I think each of us, using our own gifts and talents can play a part in helping people who are victims of violence, hatred and evil.

How about you?  Have you had a brush with evil?  What part do you play in keeping evil restrained?

Outdoor Evangelism in Cuba

I received a report that our church partners in Cuba held their first outdoor evangelistic service since the 1950’s with over 10,000 people in attendance. Hundreds of people came forward to receive Christ.  The next day, people brought their idols and smashed them to show their devotion to Christ alone.  We praise God for this report and that Bright Hope’s allies who supported this meeting.

This news was such an encouragement to me.  Cuba has been under pressure and oppression.  Matthew 16:18 comes to mind “… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.”  God’s mighty hand was upon our church partners.

We are in the last few days of our fiscal year and I’ve seen God display His goodness through so many of our church partnerships, as well as in the lives of our allies.  Please join me in celebrating our answered prayers for the poor and persecuted, and watch as God builds His church and expands our impact over the coming months.

On Saturday we will close our books for the end of the fiscal year.  Please consider a year end gift for the few projects that still need funding.

Bright Hope Link

Graduation: From College and Slum

Zainabu in 2008

You may have walked through Bright Hope’s replica of her slum house located in our warehouse. You may have listened to her testimony or seen her picture on Bright Hope’s website.  You may not remember her by name, but you know her story.

Exactly four years ago on my trip to the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, I met a vibrant young girl named Zainabu.  She was an orphaned teenager trying to support her three younger siblings living in the darkness of poverty.  The burden of taking care of her siblings and trying to earn money to survive could have darkened her spirit.  But she had an unshakable hope for her future.

Zainabu had been attending our partner church in Nairobi, Mathare Community Outreach Church.  She was on the dance team and worshipped the Lord through dance.  The pastor of the church spoke highly of this young woman.  He said she had great faith in God and remained pure and focused on trusting God with her future.

When I sat down and spoke with her, I asked her what her dreams were for her life.  She explained the deaths of her parents and the unwavering burden of trying to take care of her siblings.  But then her eyes lit up, and she walked over to a little cabinet in her shack and pulled out a college application – already filled out specifically to major in communications.  “This is my dream,” she told me.

It was then that we began the scholarship program in the Mathare Valley slum.

Night classes were her only option, as she had to still find ways to earn money to feed her siblings.  It took a team of “body guards” to get her home each night, for the alleys of Mathare are not a place any woman should be walking alone.

Four years later, we praise God for the blessings of helping Zainabu to attend college.  We celebrate her today, as she has graduated college with her degree!

The church and friends celebrated by singing “This is the Day That the Lord has Made” and testimonials.  She said this in her speech:

“God is good all the time!  I’m so happy – I don’t know what to say!  I am so grateful to God for this chance that He has brought me.  It’s been a long journey full of challenges, full of ups and downs, but I’m so grateful to God.  I remember when I was so hopeless, even when my parents were alive and couldn’t afford my school.  I had given up hope.  And then the day the pastor came to me and told me I was going to school – I was so surprised!    I remember I got a Bible, a mattress, a blanket, and some pants, and everything I needed to go to school … First to elementary school, then secondary school and finally college …

 Thank you to the Bright Hope organization and all the Bright Hope allies – thank you for all the financial help.  Thank you for seeing me through all of this.  And to every single person who supported me, who contributed to my success, I have to say thank you.”

Zainabu now has a job and is planning to move out from the slum to better place for her brother and two sisters, another graduation of sorts.

If you would like to help other students graduate from trade schools and universities, it costs $40 for a week of trade school.  There are jobs waiting for teachers, accountants and nurses who finish these two year degrees.



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