Tips for Organizing a Disaster Response Team from Your Church

by Paul Childress, Deacon, Columbia Presbyterian Church, Columbia, MD (September 2018)

Paul Childress (far right) with his team in Houston following Hurricane Harvey

Paul Childress has organized a number of disaster response teams from his church, and he shares some pointers on how to go about it.

Serving on a disaster relief team or short-term missions team is an opportunity to live out your faith by working at the intersection of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Pray:

  • If you feel the Lord prompting you to help with a service project or disaster relief effort, stop thinking and start praying!

Seek Counsel:

  • Seek counsel from your pastor, elders, and deacons. If all signs are a go, you can begin the process of helping to organize a trip.

Consult Your Diaconate:

  • Reach out to your deacon board to see if they can help promote the need and lend their support.
  • Are they willing to be on the team?
  • Are they able to help with some of the financial support for the team?

Use Denominational Resources:

  • The OPC Disaster Response Coordinator (David.Nakhla@opc.org) and Disaster Response website (OPCDisasterResponse.org) are great resources for finding out about the specific projects that are in need of teams, skill levels required, housing/meal arrangements, transportation, and material needs.
  • You will want to gather as many details about the project as possible so you can inform potential team members at your initial meeting.

Schedule a Meeting:

  • Schedule a brief initial meeting for those interested in learning more about serving.
  • A good time for the meeting might be right after a Sunday morning service.
  • Have as much information as possible in print form so folks can review and talk with their families after the meeting.
  • You will want to have any costs associated with the trip available at the meeting.
  • Please stress that any project is more about the people, not just the work.

Assess Skills:

  • Once people have expressed interest in serving, you will want to assess the skill level of each team member.
  • The OPC Disaster Response team can help you with assessing your team’s skill level.

Prepare Your Team:

  • You want to make sure your team members understand that they are serving people who have experienced a great tragedy in their life.
  • Flexibility is crucial for any disaster relief or other short-term mission work. You never know what God might bring your way or ask you to do.
  • Be ready for the unexpected by eliminating preconceived expectations.
  • A willing spirit and open mind will enable wonderful engagements between you, your team members, and the homeowners or others you are going to serve.

 

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