Working with Refugees, Stage 4: On Your Mark

young African-American businesswoman looking at the camera while in a start position on race track

Let’s look at those tasks immediately preceding the start of a refugee ministry, hence the title “On Your Mark.” These tasks are the necessities of your particular ministry. Whether you plan to teach English, provide food or rent help, offer counseling services, provide legal aid, or offer medical aid with clinics, certain practical necessities are needed to begin the ministry. Besides the practical, you must consider other things: finding a venue, advertising, submitting funding requests, enlisting volunteers, more advocacy, and, most importantly, continued prayer.


A Venue

One of the most important parts of any ministry is having a place from which to minister. A venue provides office and supply space and becomes the place from which ministry to refugees occurs. A site can cost nothing, or it can require rent. It can be associated with a church or a business or be independent of another organization.

How do you find a venue from which to minister to refugees? First, compose a priority list of what is most important for your ministry. Does the ministry venue need to be near a main transportation center like a train station or taxicab stand? Does it need to cost nothing, or can the ministry pay rent, and how much can it pay? Does the site need to be child safe, allowing refugees to bring children with them? Do you need a site large enough so the ministry can grow, or will it be a roving ministry?

After considering the ministry site priorities, the ministry team can begin searching for a venue. Often just driving around the area in which the refugees of interest live and praying for God to show you a place works well. When God shows you a site, contact the manager, pastor, or owner and make an appointment to talk to him or her about using the building.

Another way to find a ministry site is by joining another ministry or organization. Consider other ministries, churches, or organizations in the area in which the ministry could best serve your refugee population. Determine if one or more of these has the same Christian ethos as your refugee ministry. After that, approach the ministry, church, or organization to schedule a meeting to share your vision from God for the ministry and inquire if you can use a room, hall, or any other available space.

Most importantly, before you seek an interview concerning the space, pray and seek God’s will about working with this ministry, church, or organization. God will shut the door to some places. However, He knows best what the underlying ethos is of that person, organization, or business. Even though you might not understand why God tells you not to seek that venue, trust He knows the heart of the property owner or manager. Look elsewhere once God closes a door.



Resources are a necessity for any organization or ministry. What organization can operate without people, pens, paper, etc.?

First, find resources and a way to pay for them. How will the ministry be funded? How will it recruit people to help? Connect with the people, churches, businesses, and organizations you visited in stage 3. Determine whether they give funds to ministries in the community. Ask how a ministry gets funds from the person, church, business, or organization. Obtain the necessary documents to submit a funding or grant request. Ask how soon you will hear about your application. If you have not received a reply from the people, churches, businesses, or organizations by the time they said they would decide, then email or call to ask when you will know the result of your funding application.

Funding is a key challenge for organizations, for-profit and nonprofit. Often you will need to get funding from several organizations to make sure you obtain all needs for the ministry. When considering refugee ministry, consider approaching the UN refugee agency, the US Agency for International Development, and the department of social development or social services. But remember that receiving funds from government agencies may limit what your faith-based ministry can present and do.

Do not give up if you do not get funding immediately. God gave you the vision; He knows from where the funding can come. Keep praying, asking for His guidance on where to seek funding and for Him to soften the hearts of the people or organizations so they would join you in ministry to refugees.


Now is the time to purchase physical supplies. What is the program you will start first in the refugee ministry? What supplies will be needed? Paper, pens, pencils, and folders are staple supplies in every ministry and organization. Printing costs will occur for handouts for classes or other programs. Will you purchase a printer or pay a local print shop? Will your ministry distribute food, clothes, or blankets? You will need to buy the basic items you will distribute to refugees. For each ministry, places to sit and write are a necessity. Consider these costs in the funding or grant request you submit.

Besides tangible supplies, a ministry will often need people to help with the work. Maybe you will work on your own at the start of the program. As the number of refugees helped increases, more personnel will need to be on the ministry team. Initially the team members will be volunteers. After the ministry grows and funding is steady, it can become an employer. Until that time, you will need to solicit and train volunteers.

While working with the refugees, leaders emerge. Approach these leaders to tell them of the need for volunteers on the team. Discover their gifting and training. Many refugees have extensive training, having graduated from a university in their home countries. With the refugee leaders as part of the ministry team, the refugee community begins to trust and respect the ministry. Community members then seek to bring more people needing help while often offering their own services to the ministry.

In addition to volunteers from the refugee community, consider and solicit volunteers from the surrounding communities of the host city and country. Return to the organizations with which you made connections at the beginning of the ministry planning stage. Ask if they would consider telling their employees about the refugee ministry and encouraging them to volunteer their time. Churches could highlight the need for volunteers. Businesses could hold a monthly corporate employee community day and offer their manpower to the refugee ministry. Small-business owners could offer to train refugees to work for them. The ways to get volunteers are endless, but keep in mind that volunteers from the surrounding community won’t necessarily be Christians. To help maintain the integrity of your faith-based ministry, ensure that anyone involved in training volunteers is a believer.

Talk to volunteers before and after a volunteer day. Teach them how to do the work for the day. At the end of the day’s work, debrief with volunteers and answer any questions or deal with concerns. Remember to get your prayer supporters for the refugee ministry to ask God to open the hearts of others to care for refugees and join their hands and heart to the ministry.


Why advertise? Until refugees in the community learn about a new ministry and it takes root, it cannot make a big dent in the needs of the community. Tell other nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations about the ministry you will soon offer, and ask if you can place a flyer in their offices. Notify local pastors and churches. Prepare flyers and place them on the doors where refugees live. Put them on public notice boards at grocery stores, pharmacies, and other community stores. Leave flyers at doctors’ offices, libraries, and schools. Go into refugee communities and talk to people on the street. Take a refugee leader with you who can talk about the ministry and about you as a person who cares about the refugees’ problems.

Paul encouraged Christians to go to needy people and tell them about God’s salvation (Rom. 10:1; 10–14), and we are to do the same. God dropped this Christian ministry to refugees into our lap because He loves refugees and wants them to experience His love for now and eternity. How will the refugees recognize God’s love if we do not get into their community and tell them about the refugee ministry and why it’s available to help them?


In the refugee ministry article titled “Connect with People,” many reasons are listed for finding other organizations serving the refugee community. Connecting with other organizations helps you network to meet more needs of refugees, find funding for programs, and discover how to find volunteers.

Besides advocating with other organizations, you must advocate for refugee ministry within the community so people will accept refugees. Many times, people within a community, city, or nation protest out of fear about refugees entering their sphere. They are afraid refugees will take jobs away from them. Refugees willingly take lower paying jobs than nationals. Because of this, employers often choose refugees over nationals. Nationals fear the culture from which refugees come will bleed into their city or nation. They do not want genocide, war, or “strange” religions to affect their way of life. Landowners or property managers within the host city or country are sometimes prejudiced against refugees and asylum-seekers. They show it by charging refugees and asylum-seekers higher rent prices. Often they will rent 1 room of an apartment for half the price of the whole apartment. Often they will build shacks in a backyard that do not have access to running water or sewage. These landlords will then charge exorbitant rent so they can pay their own mortgage for the property from the rent.

Ultimately advocacy within the host community, city, and nation should aim to help people know the plight of the refugees and why they fled their homes. It aims to touch the hearts of people so they will care for the refugees instead of seeing them as a threat. You can advocate for refugees by speaking at churches, at businesses, in councils, in neighborhood schools and sports clubs, and with local government leaders. You cannot be the only one in a community to care for refugees and asylum-seekers. The task is very large. It takes a community united to care for its aliens, orphans, and widows. God understood this and told the Israelites to care for the poor and powerless within their communities (Deut. 14:28–29; 10:17–19; Lev. 19:15).



What is most important to know is God loves everyone. He is not prejudiced. God wants all people to come to a saving relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. At this point and throughout the ministry to refugees, prayer is paramount. God entrusting His ministry vision for refugees to us shows His love for refugees. It also shows His love for us. He knows our heart and trusts us to follow His guidance to care for refugees. God knows we love Him in return by obeying His calling on our lives.

Love for anyone, including displaced people, occurs in several ways. It includes prayer for them, introducing them to God through the gospel, listening to their stories, and seeking to minister to them by providing tangibly for their needs. Jesus modeled compassion ministry sandwiched by the gospel with His life. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, lifted the lame, restored hearing to the deaf, encouraged the fainthearted, and brought the good news of God’s saving grace to all people.

Jesus is your example of how to minister to refugees and the powerless. He began by Himself by calling people to follow Him. Jesus trained His followers to love others and how to minister to them. He taught them to pray. At this starting stage of ministry to refugees, you must pray, find a venue, secure funding, buy resources, enlist volunteers, tell refugees about the ministry, advocate for refugees, and pray more. The task is daunting. You will grow weary. People may misunderstand your intentions. Funding may not always come when you decide you need it. God may not seem to be listening to you. Jesus experienced many of these things, and He said His followers would experience them too. You are not greater than the Master. I encourage you at all times to keep the Lord before you. Pray continuously. Seek God’s will constantly. Rest regularly. Learn when to stop for the day. Get help from friends when needed (Num. 6:24–26).

Adapted fromInception: Working with Refugees, Stage Four: ‘On Your Marks’by Gail Davis with permission.


Back to Top