Well-known radio personality, Dave Ramsey, promotes a first baby step to financial freedom on his radio program. Ramsey instructs the listener to collect $1,000 into an emergency fund before taking on any other financial steps. I have found one of the benefits to following this advice is that the savings account changes the definition of emergency. Before following Ramsey’s guidance, a damaged tire with a replacement cost of $70 (back in the day of course) constituted an all-hands-on-deck emergency. The emergency account reduced the crisis to the level of an irritant with little consequence to daily life.
While Ramsey’s advice is regarded as rock-solid financial guidance, many churches could benefit from a volunteer emergency account. A volunteer emergency account is a pool of people who are not being used routinely for a program to function. This limits churches in much the same way as the lack of an emergency fund.
It is not unusual to hear of a church that loses a pastor suddenly due to death, disease, or some other personal crisis. The crisis of the pastor often results in an ecclesiastical crisis as the leadership of the church becomes headless and directionless. To a lesser degree, this same type of predicament can occur when a long-term Sunday School teacher, deacon, worship leader, or even a stalwart nursery worker leaves the equation.
I have endeavored to train up an unused emergency account of skilled volunteers where I have served even though I ministered in small communities and churches. Building a volunteer emergency account usually requires an adjustment of vision. We love to put our highly skilled and experienced in lead positions doing most of the work. This natural pattern, however, does not build a church’s emergency account of skilled volunteers. Several counter-intuitive or uncomfortable steps must be taken to develop the church’s emergency account.
When one has an emergency account, opportunities that were once beyond reach become accessible. When pork roast goes on sale but only in ten-pound packages, my wife knows that we can grab the sale price. It will save us money in the long run. In ministry life, a church having more volunteers than are required will often discover new ministry venues in the community. An excess of teachers allowed our church to contribute several who helped start a recovery program in our community. Although the need had always been there, the ability to meet it was beyond our reach until we developed new people. We didn’t initially see the possibility, but we were able to grab the “sale” when it presented itself because we had already trained an emergency fund of volunteers.
Written by John Murray
I serve a small, isolated community in the desert of Nevada. I have discipled believers for over thirty years in rural and suburban churches as well as a major public university. You can contact me at [email protected]