How to be a voice for the vulnerable in your church: What we can learn from the CIA

In the 1990s, CIA Analyst Carmen Medina saw a gap in the information flow from the field to American intelligence agencies. Put simply, the flow was segmented and too slow. Leaders were making life or death decisions without having the latest information.

Medina suggested something radical for the time: Agencies could publish information instantaneously to a classified internet, giving immediate access to all leaders.

In “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” Adam Grant writes that the plan was quickly dismissed as the internet was deemed a security risk. Medina continued to push for change. Ultimately, she got so frustrated that she got into a shouting match with a co-worker. Afterward, she took three days off and started hunting for a new job.

Being a voice for something can be a difficult journey. If you’re serving vulnerable children and families through Buckner, you’ve become undeniably passionate about the ministry. Undoubtedly, you want as many people as possible serving the vulnerable as Christ did.

Here are some suggestions for how to influence others within your sphere of influence, church or organizations:

  1. Be the best you that you can be. It may sound like something from a motivation speaker, but it’s crucial to becoming a voice for the vulnerable.

    After her argument, Medina recommitted herself to the CIA. She took on another role, then another. As she worked, people saw her commitment. They listened to her ideas and became advocates for her. Her influence expanded.

    Be the best friend, acquaintance, co-worker, church member or organizational participant you can be. Your actions speak louder than words. Help your friends. Serve through your church. By daily showing your commitment to an individual, church or group, each of them naturally becomes more receptive to what you say. You’re building relationships and trust. That allows your voice to be multiplied.
     
  2. Know when to speak. This can be the toughest part of being an advocate. Though you want to tell everyone to serve vulnerable families, the truth is not everyone is ready to serve those in need.

    As Medina continued to work at the CIA, she held back her opinions about publishing information online. She still believed them, but knew the time wasn’t right. When she knew she had the influence and support of others and CIA leaders were willing to listen her, she shared her thoughts again.

    The Holy Spirit is your best guide in knowing when to speak. Wait for the Spirit to prompt you, then share your heart for vulnerable children. That could be when someone asks you a question directly tied to your service to children and families. It might be when you need the help of a friend to accomplish a project. It might even be during a church committee meeting. Other times, the prompting of the Spirit might come unexpectedly. Follow it.
     
  3. Start small. When Medina had garnered the support to pioneer online communication within intelligence agencies, she began small with a few people posting material. She knew some staff would be skeptical. Some managers even instructed their staff not to post information online. But when people saw the impact it had on operations, they quickly jumped on board and the effort snowballed.

    Start with sharing your passion for vulnerable families with a friend or even a small group of friends. When you sense the Spirit moving, talk to your Bible study group about how it can serve people in need. Let your passion be the spark that starts a wildfire of compassion for the vulnerable. God will fan that flame.
     
  4. Celebrate successes. When you and your friends, organization or church serve the vulnerable, celebrate it. Go to lunch together. Discuss what you did and how God was speaking to you through the ministry you did. Praise God for using your group to help children and families in need.

    Serving children and families will change people like it has you. Celebrate that movement of God within the lives of those you know.

Less than a decade after a shouting match nearly ended her career at the CIA, Medina played a crucial role in creating Intellipedia, an internal Wikipedia for intelligence agencies. By 2008, the platform was used to protect the Beijing Olympics and identify the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks. The site had more than 500,000 users and 630 million page views.

God honors those who seek to serve the poor and hurting. When we share our passion for the vulnerable, we may be surprised by what he does to us, our friends, our organizations and our churches.

If you would like more information on how your church can engage with Buckner, go to www.buckner.org/engage-your-church

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