Sponsorship is the most important job in Emmaus
Good sponsorship is vital to the integrity of Emmaus. Many communities take sponsorship for granted; they assume that everyone knows the how and why of sponsorship.
It is more than just “signing up people”. The quality of sponsorship influences the pilgrim, the health of the Emmaus Movement, and the church affected by the movement.
First, good sponsorship is your first act of agape before a Walk ever begins; the experience of the Walk for a pilgrim really starts with how we handle sponsorship.
Second, good sponsorship undergirds the whole weekend with sacrificial love on behalf of each pilgrim. Sponsors use discernment in recruiting pilgrims, embody the personal commitment of the community to each pilgrim, and provide personal acts of agape during the three days for the pilgrims. These acts of agape include the sponsor’s personal preparations for the weekend, presence at Send off, Candlelight and Closing, follow-up after the weekend, and prayer during the entire process.
Third, good sponsorship is the foundation for a healthy, effective Emmaus movement that is fulfilling its true purpose – the development of Christian leaders and the renewal of the church in ministry. The strength of any Emmaus community is a direct result of its recruiting practices. If the community is committed to recruiting strong church leaders for the purpose of strengthening the local church, then the community will be a strong, vital force in the renewal movement. If, on the other hand, the Walk to Emmaus is looked upon as a hospital where every human ill can be cured, it will have a weakening effect on the entire community.
WHY DO WE SPONSOR?
The aim of a sponsor should not be to “get all my friends to go”, to fill up the weekend, to fix people’s problems, or to reproduce one’s own religious experience in others. Rather, the aim of the sponsor is to bring spiritual revitalization to Christians who, in turn, will bring new life and vision to the work of the church in the congregation, home, workplace, and community. The aim of sponsorship is to build up the Body of Christ.
WHOM DO WE SPONSOR?
One’s awareness of and commitment to the purpose of Emmaus influences who is sponsored and how they are sponsored. Emmaus is for active Christians and members of churches whose own renewal will mean new energy, commitment, and vision in the church and everyday environments for Christ’s sake. There are several qualities a prospective pilgrim should possess.
First, the person should already be on a pilgrimage, willing to grow and move forward in their journey of faith.
Second, the person should have a Christian passion. The pilgrim knows God can make and has made a difference in their life.
Third, the person isn’t so consumed by life’s circumstances that they are unable to give full attention to the message and experience of Emmaus.
Those sponsored could include the following:
• church leaders (pastors and laypersons) who will bring new vision, commitment, and understanding back to their congregations and who need the renewal and grace Emmaus channels;
• dependable church members who are the quiet backbone of the church;
• less active members who need their awareness of grace rekindled and their commitments renewed;
• Christians who are hungry for “something more” and who want to grow spiritually;
• Respected laypersons and clergypersons whose participation, support, and leadership will encourage others to attend the Walk and will build a sound, balanced leadership base for the movement in the community; and
• members of diverse congregations, denominations, and ethnic groups.
Emmaus is right for many people – but not for everyone. The religious background or emotional condition of some people may make Emmaus an improper discipleship tool for them. Others may be unsuitable for sponsorship because of the negative effect they might have on an Emmaus weekend or the divisive influence they might bring to the church. Sponsorship requires sensitivity to these factors.
Some examples of questionable sponsorship are as follows:
• Christians whose theology and/or practice is notably different or incompatible with the traditional theology and practice represented by The Walk to Emmaus;
• persons undergoing an emotional crisis (for example, family breakup, job loss, severe grief) or who are psychologically unstable;
• “church-hoppers” – those who always have an axe to grind against the church; persons who will use Emmaus as a tool to divide the body, to further their own theological agendas, or who will create an “Emmaus church”
• persons who are always looking for another spiritual high or another experience to help them “arrive”.
• persons who decide not to attend a Walk after being presented the opportunity. A potential sponsor need not feel like a failure if a prospect says no. Perhaps the timing is not right. Perhaps God will renew the person in another way. Remember, The Walk to Emmaus is not the way to renewal for every Christian.
Wise sponsorship is purposeful and prayerful; unwise sponsorship is haphazard and non-discerning. Wise sponsorship eventually will produce a balanced, theologically centered movement of the Holy Spirit.
Unwise sponsorship eventually will produce a harvest that becomes more of a burden than a blessing for the church.