One of the great challenges, possibly the greatest challenge, any servant leader of a nonprofit organization faces is how to identify and engage individuals and groups who are ready and willing to help with the heavy lifting (no pun intended) of the organization.
I am keenly aware that this community is overflowing with good and generous people. I also know, however, that worthy causes abound and each is fighting for its slice of the proverbial volunteer pie (time, talent, resources).
Because CentrePeace is a faith-based organization, it only seems natural that a significant number of potential volunteers would exist within the Centre Region’s diverse faith community. To that end, I have had the incredibly awesome privilege and opportunity during my tenure here at CentrePeace to speak in front of scores of faith communities throughout central Pennsylvania. I have always tried to approach each engagement as a chance to reach out and connect to believers with CentrePeace’s message of hope and healing.
When I first began speaking in front of congregations, I was constantly afraid of accidentally saying something that would somehow offend that particular group’s core beliefs. Unfortunately, I found myself spending more time worrying about how others viewed my definition of faith and how that translates into a faith-based organization (and how that definition coincided with their worldview). I should have spent more time sharing all that CentrePeace means to those tens of thousands of men and women in state prisons and jails who were in desperate need of someone in their lives who cares. In the end, what I discovered about myself and through others is that, while there exist many church congregations, there is but only one true, loving and all-powerful God.
I realized it didn’t matter what any one place of worship looked like or what it was called. Nor during a visit did it matter if I prayed standing, sitting or kneeling. More importantly, it mattered only where my heart was and the hearts of those sitting in the pews in front of me, listening intently to what God had placed in my heart to share with them.
And in all of the places of worship where I have been invited to speak, I have yet to stumble upon a faith group unwilling to reach out to someone in need. Faith, love and hope are indeed powerful gifts, but only when they are shared unconditionally with someone in need. We live in an extraordinary community of believers, and I thank God each and every day that so many of those believers are trusted friends of CentrePeace.
Thomas L. Brewster is executive director of CentrePeace, Inc.