At every event, we train our volunteers to be successful. The first time you volunteer, you may feel a little overwhelmed and underused, but that’s on purpose. (Sorry!) It allows you to observe more and do a
little less the first time.
One thing we teach all our volunteers to do is avoid saying “Do you want this?” or “Do you need this?” Instead we train all our volunteers to state gently, “I have some [whatever] and you can have one if it would
help.” It’s an awkward sentence and takes some practice.
So why do we use it? We don’t know what our clients want or need today. It might feel arrogant if we assume they need food or socks or whatever. Maybe they just spent their last dollars on a great meal. “Do
you want a sandwich?” might seem condescending to them and even a put down.
Secondly, being vulnerable is difficult. Say I do need socks, and you come up with a bag full and say, “Do you need socks?” To me, it might seem that I have to admit that I need them before I can get them. It might
seem like you’re holding that over me. By asking them if it would help, they get all the power. We want to avoid shame, guilt and power plays in the ministry, and we know that “I have a bag of socks and you can have a pair if it would help” works well!
Finally, we have street tested this phrase on lots of people over the years. One difficult group to work with is the emotionally active. Whether because they are drunk, high, or simply emotionally agitated,
questions about “do you want?” or “do you need?” further excites this group. An offer of help has proven to be calming and even creates space to talk about other things. Clients may say, “No that wouldn’t help. But you know what would. . .” This opens the door to a relationship and a discussion of something much more important than socks.
So, when you come out with us, you’ll learn a lot of stuff and get a chance to put this to the test! Know that your presence in ministry matters. It’s not just a sandwich or a pair of socks to our clients. Your presence shows them that someone cares. Your presence surprises them. Many have come to expect little of the church and seeing people put faith into action gets their attention. Finally, we always give through relationship, so you are bringing something they value… you.
Hard to believe?
“I would rather someone look me in the face and say, ‘No’ than to ignore me when I ask for spare change.” I would rather someone stop, take off their headphones, smile and simply say, “Hi, than give me anything.”
These are statements that we hear all the time from street youth. So when you come down to help us, you are bringing something that the street youth treasure more than anything in our bags of goodies. YOU!
“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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