I didn’t know. I had no idea. I’ve been going to SBC Annual Meetings for a couple of decades and had no clue what it took to pull off one of these things.
Last week, we (by we, I mean some of the EC staff and then I hung around a bit) finished up a week of meetings of convention planning with logistics people, venue staff and reps from a few of our entities. We did have our larger Local Arrangement Team meeting on Tuesday where we received a bunch of updates and information regarding volunteer needs. The LET also were able to do a full walkthrough of the meeting halls where we will spend most of our time for those 4 days in June.
When asked to lead the team for this year in New Orleans was excited to help! Little did I know how much behind the scenes work is involved in making this happen. Let me just say again that the EC staff members who lead this work are top notch. I’ve raved about them before, so I won’t do that again. Suffice it to say, watching them work is impressive. But they need help and that’s where all the rest of us come in.
The Need for Volunteers
The job of the LET is to encourage involvement in the Annual Meeting. Specifically, it is to recruit volunteers for all those behind-the-scenes roles that most of attendees to the SBC never really notice but must be filled to have the convention meeting run smoothly.
There are a handful of volunteer “teams” which are needed throughout the convention. What follows is a list of those teams. The first two teams are volunteers but are hand selected, primarily because of the specialized training they must go through. The other five teams are open to anyone who would be willing to give of their time to help.
- Registration Clerks – This is a volunteer but selected group of Baptist Collegiate Ministry students, typically from the state in which the convention is taking place, who are those sitting behind the desks to register you for the convention. They have given a week of their summer to serve us in this way and a kind word should be offered to them when you meet them during your time in the registration queue.
- Pages – This too is a volunteer but selected group of people who, this year, come from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. These are the people who stand at the microphones to help you when you’d like to speak to an issue on the floor. They are also responsible to run your paperwork to the stage after you’ve spoken. Unfortunately, there were several instances last year in which our pages were treated rudely by a small number of messengers. In fact, my wife listened in at one mic as one or two people spoke very harshly to a couple of younger pages. People, there is no place for that. The only emotion those pages should sence coming from you is appreciation and thankfulness for their service to you. Can we please do better this year?
- Ushers – Those volunteering to serve as an Usher during a session of the Annual Meeting of the SBC, will serve inside the main hall for the SBC Pastors’ Conference (Sunday and Monday) and the SBC Annual Meeting (Tuesday and Wednesday). Responsibilities include greeting messengers and guests and assisting them with finding seats if necessary. Ushers will also “pass the buckets” for collection of ballots as well as collecting offerings during the SBC Pastors’ Conference. Ushers are the eyes and ears of the session hall for emergency situations so that First Aid and Security can be notified. Usher Captains will be assigned to seating sections and will provide guidance to those ushers assigned to each section. Usher Captains will also have radios to connect with the Convention Office for questions or emergencies. You must also be prepared to assist in an emergency. An emergency plan will be communicated during training. Those who work a double shift will be provided with a meal voucher. The NEED: 60 volunteers per session.
- Greeters – Those volunteering to serve as a Greeter during a session of the Annual Meeting of the SBC, will primarily serve inside the Convention Center to greet messengers and guests, at main entrances, provide general directions to meeting rooms, Exhibit Halls, General Sessions, Registration, etc. Greeters will be provided with an information card that will supply answers to over 80% of questions which will likely be asked. Greeters will also point people to the Information Booths for more involved questions or other general help. Some Greeters will be asked to work outside at the shuttle drop-off if needed, as well as at entrances to the Convention Center. Those who work a double shift will be provided with a meal voucher. The NEED: 15 volunteers per session.
- Registration Support – Those volunteering to serve as Registration Support during a session of the Annual Meeting of the SBC, will primarily serve in the Registration area of the big hall. These volunteers will be doing a number of tasks during thier service. Jobs include, keeping kiosks supplied, continually attaching lanyards to badeges and other necessary support services. Three volunteers will be pulled to serve as Line Managers. These volunteers need to be assertive people-persons who can help to keep registration rolling without traffic jams. They will help to expand or contract the stanchion lines depending on crowd sizes. The NEED: 13 volunteers per session.
- Information Booth Attendants – Those volunteering to serve at the Information Booths during a session of the Annual Meeting of the SBC will be supplied with an information notebook from the Executive Committee that has a myriad of information about the Annual Meeting. There will be materials such as maps, restaurant guides, tourist attractions, public transportation information, and shopping areas. Some volunteers will serve in the booth and others will stand just outside the booths to welcome attendees, assist with directions, and answer questions. Nothing needs to be provided by volunteers. NOTE: In New Orleans, there will be two Information Booths, one at the Julia Street entrance and one near the Halls D and E entrance. Those who work a double shift will be provided with a meal voucher. The NEED: 8-10 volunteers per session.
- Prayer Room Attendants – Those volunteering to serve in the Prayer Room during a session of the Annual Meeting of the SBC, will be stationed at the well-marked Prayer Room which is available for those who desire to spend time in prayer or to request someone to pray for you. These are the core prayer warriors and will also be available to assist those who come to pray or ask for prayer. Those who work a double shift will be provided with a meal voucher. The NEED: 4 volunteers per session.
We Need Your Help!
Friends, we need your help. This will likely be one of (if not the) largest convention(s) in recent history. We’ve already passed certain marks that tell us this will be a big one. Hotel nights are on a record pace, this will be the biggest Exhibit Hall we’ve ever utilized, and we have more exhibitors than in the history of the SBC. That’s all GREAT news, but that also means we need help.
Please consider offering your service as a volunteer this year to help us make this week a special one. Here are some suggestions for you to consider…
- Pick a session that you know you are going to sit through and volunteer to be an Usher at that session. You won’t miss a thing and you’ll be a big help.
- Pick a session that you don’t care as much to miss and volunteer to serve as a Greeter. You’ll be able to interact with others and offer a smiling face to those who are entering the facility.
- Assemble a small group of folks from your church to volunteer for a particular area of service and let that be a special time of fellowship.Then report back to your church how you not only represented your church at the convention, but your church helped serve the annual meeting as well.
- Also, consider doing back-to-back sessions and you’ll receive a food voucher. That’s a good situation.
- Please take some time to pass along these needs to others who might not know about it. We can use all the help we can get.
Keep in mind… even though your church only has a specific number of “Messengers” which it is allowed, you have an infinite number of “Guests” you can register. We want everyone who comes from your church to be registered as either a Messenger or as a Guest. It is important that everyone is properly credentialed, and that is especially true for those helping to serve as volunteers whether they are messengers or guests.
How Can I Help?
I’m so glad you asked… please go over to our SBC Annual Meeting website at www.sbcannualmeeting.net and click on the “Volunteer” tab. There you can scroll through the drop-down menu and sign up for the spot in which you’d like to serve. Your group leader will contact you in the future with more information.
A Closing Thought
I never knew of the need for this number of volunteers at the annual meeting. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed that never knew about it. I will soon be putting out the call for the pastor’s and the members of churches in our New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA) to sign up. In fact, my challenge will be to every pastor in NOBA to sign on to at least one session of volunteer work this June. I’ll then be asking them, depending on their church size, to gather members who will do the same.
I have already determined there will never be another SBC Annual Meeting in which I will not volunteer in at least one session. It’s easy, it’s helpful and it’s fun. It is also a way to be involved that doesn’t take much effort but is a meaningful way help make the event better for everyone.
Won’t you join us?