October 23, 2009

How do we encourage people to serve outside the church?


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This week we’re focusing on volunteering. The first couple of posts have been on serving inside the church. Today, we’re going to take a look at a church that is also strongly encouraging folks to serve outside the church. With that in mind, here’s an interview with Dino Rizzo, the senior pastor of Healing Place Church.

TONY: What’s the serving culture like at Healing Place Church?

DINO: Our culture of serving here at Healing Place Church really just began with felt-needs. We’d see a widow in need, and do what we could to help her. Today, widows, single moms and the elderly are still a big part of how we serve, but now it has taken on a “Second-Mile” mentality more than ever. One of our teaching pastors wrote about this mindset (The Second Mile by Mike Haman) and it has truly become a picture of the culture of serving here – always looking to go to extra lengths to address needs. It took what we were doing, and shifted us into the next gear.

TONY: Why is it so important to you to move people into serving roles at the church?

DINO: I believe it is the difference between life and death in the Church. When a church turns inward, it is only a matter of time until they become a non-factor in their community. We have a mandate to move people to serving the cause of Jesus.  Serving that cause can happen in a thousand different ways, but we must not allow Church to turn inward.

TONY: What is a “servolution?”

DINO: A servolution is a significant change in the course of history sparked by simple acts of kindness. It is a revolution; not one that is fueled by anger, violence and revolt, but one of compassion, love and service.  This revolution has a clear mission to answer the cries of the poor, the hurting and the forgotten, and is made up of revolutionaries willing to lay down their lives to reach out to people in their city, their nation, and throughout the world.  This is a revolution aimed at initiating change, but not by overthrowing a government; this change comes by bringing healing to a hurting world, and by loving people to Christ.  This is a revolution of serving others…a servolution.  The troops are followers of Christ, the companies of soldiers are churches, and the weapons are towels for service.

TONY: Now that the book, Servolution, has been out for a few months, what’s the best story you’ve heard from another church?

DINO: Well, it’s tough to say one is “better” than the rest, but here’s one that really gives a good picture of what is happening over and over at churches across the world. It is from a volunteer named Curt at a church in Austin, Texas.

Curt said they decided to plan “a Servolution-style event, not only for the benefit of reaching the local community, but also to show our staff and members by example what could be done if we really focused on community outreach.”

So they did a free car wash, and gave away free hotdogs and cold drinks. “Less than halfway through, we had already done 75 cars and blown through all 150 hotdogs and all cold drinks.  Runners were sent to the store to buy replacement food.  By the end of the four hours we ended up washing 160 cars… Volunteers came out like I would not have imagined.  We had 49 adult volunteers, all wearing the bright red Servolution shirts….”

He continued, “The people we were serving just couldn’t believe that there wasn’t a catch.  It was SOOO much fun telling them that there was no catch, and that we wouldn’t take their money if they tried.  Many called their friends and family to come get their car washed, which was perfect!  ….More often than not, the guest would end up asking questions about the church, which we were more than happy to answer.”

He said at least one family that had learned about the church through the event was at the church the next Sunday.  And he said, “Probably the biggest surprise of all was the response from the volunteers.  Most people said that it was the MOST fun they’ve ever had at a church activity of any kind.”

Getting people to experience the joy of serving, helping people see that church is a place they can feel welcomed to, meeting people where they have a need, and giving them the chance to encounter Jesus – that’s what servolution is all about. And what’s cool is that Curt’s story is one of many that are happening all over. We’ve got a steady stream of Servolution stories coming in. You can check them out to see for yourself.

TONY: What specific advice would you give senior pastors to encourage folks to step into serving roles?

DINO: You have to lead by example. We’ve all heard the saying, “As goes the leader, so goes the church.” It is so true. We have to be out front. Pastors must lead the way in sweating, crying, praying, cheering, encouraging, and telling the story of the heart to serve. And, you really can’t delegate it away, either.  A servant’s towel must fit the hand of the pastor as well as the college and high school students.

TONY: What’s next for Servolution?

DINO: We’re already in the planning stages for a special nationwide Servolution in Spring 2010. It’ll be similar to the “7 Days of Servolution” earlier this year. Stay tuned to Servolution.org for details.

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