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. Yet sponsorship is the most important job in Emmaus. 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.
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.
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 prayer, agape letters, and presence at Send off, Candlelight and Closing, and follow-up.
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.
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.
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.
Those sponsored could include the following:
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:
Wise sponsorship is purposeful and prayerful; unwise sponsorship is haphazard and undiscerning. 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.
Any persons who have participated in Emmaus can sponsor another person to Emmaus so long as they understand the aim and responsibilities of sponsorship and can fulfill them for the person they would sponsor. Persons who have participated in Chrysalis can also sponsor adults to Emmaus under the same conditions.
While a pilgrim may not know what questions to ask, you do not need to tell them everything that will occur during the three days. However, keep in mind there are no secrets! Saying to a pilgrim that you can’t tell them anything about the Walk potentially creates unnecessary suspicion and anxiety. And for clergy and staff leadership, this posture builds a wall of division resulting in an “us vs. them” mentality against the Emmaus community. There is no reason to shroud the event in secrecy. This practice has probably done more harm to the movement than people realize. You can share many things about Emmaus without revealing some of the unique and meaningful experiences.
Here are some suggested items to cover with a pilgrim.
A copy of the Request for Pilgrim Reservation and the Sponsor Sheet can be found in the “Blue Book” given to all pilgrims and team members at the end of each walk. The most current copies of these forms can be found by clicking here.
ALL parts of both forms must be completed and signed. Please consider each item on the Sponsor Sheet carefully and prayerfully consider your responsibility before signing your name. Also, make certain the the sponsor’s contact information on the Pilgrim Reservation form is accurate. Incomplete applications cannot be processed.
Both forms should be mailed to the Registrar by the sponsor. All communications with the Registrar should be from the sponsor unless circumstances dictate otherwise.
Much of the material contained in this document is written and excerpted from the following two resources that are available through The Upper Room website.
DAY FOUR: The Pilgrim's Continued Journey by Robert Wood & Marie Livingston Roy
THE UPPER ROOM HANDBOOK ON EMMAUS, 2nd Edition by Stephen Bryant & Richard Gilmore
Also consider these excellent resources (also available through The Upper Room website):
SPONSORSHIP by Richard & Janine Gilmore – The Emmaus Library series
WHAT IS EMMAUS? by Stephen Bryant – The Emmaus Library series