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A Day in the Life, Part 1

November 2012 Roof Project 2As I'm sure is true in many of your jobs, it can be challenging to nail down an "average day". Since we're a small organization, at least in terms of staff, we do what we have to to get the job done. We hope that you can get a sense for what running your own nonprofit, or home repair ministry (in a church), can be (it certainly doesn't need to include all of the things listed here!), and maybe stoke some ideas. Part 1 will be more focused on running a service nonprofit, and Part 2 will be show you things that happen on a project day (which will be of special interest to churches). Nevertheless, to give you a bit of an idea what we do and how we operate, here is an attempt. Please note that this average day is representational, designed to show you some of the many things that are done to run a home repair ministry.

Day 1 - Preparing for Projects and Running the Ministry

Today is a Wednesday, so Jim Eschenberg, our Director of Communications and Development, and I have staff prayer time in the morning.

I ask several team leaders from churches, serving a widow, to recruit a few people each so we can blitz the roof project and get it done in one day. We have relationships with churches all over our area, each with people that love to serve God, with tools, by helping under-resourced people.

It’s time to see what emails have come in since last night:

  • Jim requests information on a donor and copy for a newsletter.
  • Several volunteers report the results of projects and another asks for some advice on how attach a grab bar in a tiled shower.
  • A reply from a pastor indicates that he would like to meet about organizing some handy people in his church for outreach.
  • I’m reminded to make a reservation for a networking opportunity.
  • A home health agency calls about a client who had a stroke and now can’t climb stairs. A trip to the site shows me what he needs (a wheelchair ramp) and his financial situation. Now I can start thinking about design, estimate materials needed, set a budget, consider funding sources, and see whether we can get materials discounted or at cost.

  • With a quick call to a ministry in urban Atlanta, we set up a time to meet about a problem on their building that we might be able to tackle with volunteers.
    With time left, I return phone calls.
    Please come back next Wednesday for Part 2!

    Loving Your Neighbor Through Home Repair

    Helping Hurting HomeownersPeople with a high view of scriptural authority have often been strong in word ministry but "not so strong" in deed ministry. This has often bothered me, because our example, Jesus, was mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19). So, that is why we think a church with the capacity and with interested people should be out there helping hurting people stay in their homes.

    Coming from the other direction, just fixing houses isn't enough. If the work does not address a person's greatest need, redemption from sin, we haven't "loved our neighbor as ourselves". One reason I like home repairs is that people are inviting us into their homes. We're not selling anything, and by the way, "Do you understand why were are helping you? We're telling God, 'Thank you', for redeeming us from sin through Christ, alone".

    Isaiah 58 talks about ending religious posturing and getting practical enough to help real people in real need. Verse 10 says, "if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." Our world desperately needs such light.

    How about you? Does your church have someone who loves to fix things and could start a team (it can start very small)? Our ministry exists, in part, to help you start or grow your team. You'll find a wealth of information in the resource center and ministry library. Sign up now at no cost!

    How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 4

    This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

    Community PartershipsThe last way we'll discuss to serve your communities (although far from the last way to do it!) is to form strategic community partnerships. Done right, partnering with other nonprofits and agencies has the potential to have the greatest impact on the community. Let's look at why that is.

    1) Leveraging broader skill/labor pools - An agency, nonprofit or church probably won't have all of the skills needed to have maximum impact or effectiveness in the community. What's true for a local church is also true for the broader Church (see 1 Corinthians 12) - we function better, and more optimally, when we're sharing skills and talents across churches and denominations (assuming we hold to the same core beliefs and doctrines). As a sidebar, that's another great reason for church home repair teams (or pick your service ministry) to serve together. If you're experience is like ours, you'll be able to do more by working across multiple churches.

    2) Maximizing resources - What's true of labor is also true of materials and funding. Do you think that most organizations feel like they could accomplish more if they had more money or materials? Perhaps you can pool resources with another nonprofit or agency to benefit both. A ministry that has blessed us, Ground Zero Grace, has shared a warehouse with us for years. Their generosity has turned into many in the community getting repairs, because we have a place to store materials and tools!

    3) Thinking strategically - here's where we can put #1 and #2 into use to increase impact. Our nonprofit ministry has served local co-ops to help them serve more people or use limited resources more frugally.

    We've talked before about helping a local co-op build a thrift store so that they could provide low-cost goods to clients and bring in some more revenue. We've also served at a thrift/consignment store that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities. These are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless. Do you have success stories working with other agencies? Please share your experiences and help us learn! Just click on "Leave a Comment" below to add to the discussion. Please note that you have to be in the actual post (click on the blog title above) to leave a comment. You will not be able to leave comments from the main blog page (if you see more than one blog post as you scroll down, you're on the main blog page).

    We've also observed that funders look very positively on community collaborations - yet another reason to explore the possibilities!

    If you missed earlier posts, you can see them here -

    Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
    Part 2 - Advocacy
    Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery

    How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 3

    This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

    Disaster ResponseNow, let's look at another way a church can actively engage with, serve and love their community (as well as their congregations). Disasters can upend almost everything - family, home, job, way of life and more. Churches can help with response and/or rebuilding after a disaster. Isn't that practical?

    And doesn't it offer a striking parallel to the gospel? We reach the point where our sin ravishes our lives, and we find ourselves desperately needing help outside of ourselves. As Jesus rescues repentant sinners from our self-inflicted disaster, perhaps your church can provide a representation of that to your community by responding to disasters. How might that change the cultures view of the Church and our Savior?

    One nice thing about disaster response is that it probably won't require a regular time commitment (with a possible exception in long-term rebuilding projects). Your team can respond as need arises. In fact, starting a home repair team in your church might be a great way to prepare your volunteers for a disaster and even start your team. If you're looking for some resources on how to start a home repair team, we've got a no-cost ministry resource library. We hope that you'll check it out.

    Rebuilding after a devastating tornado - Here's one example of how eight churches, Home Repairs Ministries and nonprofits/agencies responded and partnered together to help a Palestinian widow rebuild.

    If you missed earlier posts in this series, you can see them here -

    Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
    Part 2 - Advocacy
    Part 4 - Forming Partnerships

    Categories: Disaster Recovery, Service, The Gospel Tags:

    How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 2

    This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

    CourtAdvocacy is one of those open-ended terms that can mean different things to just about everyone. What springs to your mind? A political rally? Signing a petition? A lawyer? the concept is simple - advancing the cause of the hurting and oppressed, typically through public opinion or legislation.

    Have you had success with large (or small) advocacy efforts? If so, will you share your story? We'd love to learn from you. Please click on “Leave a Comment” at the bottom of this post and share your experience!

    Because the challenges advocacy seeks to address can be so large and daunting, it probably scares a lot of folks off. But we think that there are ways to "stand in the gap" for people that don't require such a large-scale effort.

    Advocacy can be very effective if you have good relationships in the community, but require a different set of skills for "hands-on" ministry people. Instead of swinging a hammer, collecting food, or providing shelter or rent money, these types of engagements require strong networking skills and the ability to work the phones. While they may not require material costs or volunteers, advocacy projects are a great way to build strong rapport and relationship with a homeowner and to help more people. Here's how it looks for our ministry. We get connected with someone in need, then use our connections and relationships to get funding, materials, grants, special considerations or discounts. HRM typically works with companies and nonprofits until a solution is arrived at - advocating on the client’s behalf.

    We've been able to get client's heaters or air conditioners replaced or repaired for significant discounts or free. Certainly, this is not something a company or nonprofit can do all the time, but if you can accomplish one or two projects that you wouldn't have been able to before, what a difference that could mean for people!

    Want to read more about how to impact your community?

    Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
    Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery
    Part 4 - Forming Partnerships

    How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 1

    Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be sharing some of the ways our organization works and serves in the community. But we’d love for that to be only a small part of this blog! Why? We’re looking for your input, wisdom and best practices! Would you leave a comment below and let us know different ways your church or organization works in your neck of the woods and how you reach your communities? We want this to be something we can all learn from! Just click on “Leave a Comment” and drop some knowledge on us!

    With that out of the way, here is the first way that Home Repairs Ministries engages our community. Can you guess what it is? You might be stunned. No really, you’ll never guess. It’s…. doing home repair projects (and accessibility updates). Did you guess? Give yourself a high five and do a happy dance! You earned it.

    2011 photos and videos 4794So, what does that look like? The truth is, it can look like almost anything you can imagine. There are a couple types of projects we don’t do, but with the deep skill base of the church volunteers we work with, the possibilities are practically endless. The common factor is that we’re generally serving people in significant need with repairs they cannot do or afford themselves. These projects can range from as small as replacing a faucet cartridge to as large as replacing a roof. We even do yard cleanups sometimes. They’re great projects if you have a lot of youth or less skilled (but big hearted) volunteers.

    We also help people in situations where their home is inaccessible due to a medical condition or handicap. Most typically, this takes the form of building a wheelchair ramp. HRM has also prepared homes so that a lift system can be put in for someone who can’t get around on their own, even in a wheelchair.

    What if your church or group would like to take on more projects, but lack a broader set of skills? Might we suggest networking and collaborating across multiple churches? By growing your volunteer pool and you skillset, you open up the scope, number, and complexity of the projects you can get done. Plus, it’s a great witness when a broad swath of Christ-followers are loving on each other, serving together and having a great time.

    Part 2 - Advocacy
    Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery
    Part 4 - Forming Partnerships

    Want to know more about mercy ministry, community partnerships and the work of HRM? Sign up for our monthly email update. It only takes a couple seconds!

    Driving Outreach May Be Easier Than You Think

    2014 Church ConferenceWe've been blessed to be able to attend a couple church conferences, and they have been exciting opportunities to talk with leaders, from churches, who see the possibilities of a home repair team in their church. They see a team as a great way to meet some critical needs of the most vulnerable members of their congregations (particularly widows, the elderly, single mothers and people with mobility challenges), and as a tangible way to express God’s, and their, love to their congregants by serving them (John 13:35).

    Home Repair can be a kind of “low-hanging” fruit as outreach goes, since once you make some community connections and know where to find needs, you’ll have people inviting your people into their homes to help. Pretty cool!

    The discussions also reinforced that home repair ministry is more bottom-up than top-down. It was encouraging to see that the church leaders, by and large, seemed to get that. You just need to find the right "driver", and most often, this person is not staff. It's a matter of finding your church’s handy (and motivated) people, recruiting them to lead your ministry, and if an extra "push" is needed, providing some resources to help them get started. HRM would like to help make your job a little easier! We have a library of content available to help arm home repair ministry leaders (actual or prospective) with information to start and grow their own team!

    Take a Sneak Peek     Register for the Site

    And now a couple questions that we’d love your feedback on. Just click on "Leave a comment" below this post and let us know your experiences.

    1) If your church has a home repair team, how did you find and engage your leader? Would it have helped the process to have some documentation for how to run a home repair ministry beforehand?

    2) If you don’t have a team, have you tried? What was the response from the person(s) you approached?

    How Do You... Install Grab Bars?

    We get requests from elderly people constantly for grab bars in bathrooms. These can be a challenge because of the strength problem with drywall. Here are some of my experience and thoughts. Please note: this is a fairly complex project and should only be undertaken if you have advanced skills. If you have attempted something like this before and had success, would you let us know what you have learned and share your experiences by leaving a comment below?

    When we need to center a bar, for instance directly across from a toilet, reachable from the seat, studs are often not cooperative. There are several choices:

    • Install a decorative board long enough to still look centered but span studs, and attach the grab bar to the board. This could be as simple as a white-wood (Aspen or whatever) 1x6 with square edges & paint, or as nice as oak with routed edges and a stain/polyurethane finish.
    • Get a long grab bar that hits studs and provides a place to grab across from the toilet but not centered. This is a looks and cost question as the longer the bar, the more it costs.
    • Use a hollow wall anchor, toggle, WingIts® (expensive) or toggle straps with screws to attach the mounting plates. Straps can be found cheap, and some have a pull rating of 80#’s each screw, which gives a pull of 320# is you get 4 screws in.

    Tile shower stalls are another question. There are a lot of ways to drill tile but the gentlest I’ve found is the diamond grit hole saws. When I started the hole saw:

    1. I held the drill at about 45 degrees, cradled the drill in my left hand close but not touching the wall, ¼” away from the center of the ½” proposed hole mark, spun it up and very softly touched the wall, until it began to bite in,
    2. Then continuing to cut, slowly straightened it up until perpendicular to the wall and over the mark.

    We find the studs in the wall above the tile with a stud finder when possible. Otherwise we are going blind and operating from the ½” hole after drilling.

    Do you have a trick for fiberglass showers where all you have the shell, air, then drywall, and more air? What do you tighten down on between the fiberglass and the wallboard?

    Categories: Accessibility, Tool Tips Tags:

    E Pluribus What???

    Take a look at any coin in your pocket. Somewhere on there it will say, “E Pluribus, Unum”. What does that mean, and what does that have to do with a service ministry?

    Actually, it has a lot to do with it! According to Wikipedia, the phrase comes from the Latin meaning, “Out of Many, One”. Quoting further from the listing, "The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerge a single nation." The idea, unity from many people.

    That concept should be extremely meaningful to the church. Why? Because it was so important to Jesus that He said unity among His believers would show people God:

    20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23; NIV)

    It will also bring followers of Jesus joy – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm133:1, NASB)

    How does this look practically? Well, for one thing, it can be fun to serve together with folks from other congregations. Too often we can get caught up in squabbles over non-essentials to our Christian faith. That’s not to suggest that we shouldn’t vigorously defend the key doctrines of the faith, but how often is that really what we're arguing over? Isn’t it a better witness to see Christ-followers, from different places, backgrounds and races, serving together to show Jesus to the world?

    And, we can get more accomplished if we work together. For a home repair ministry, like ours, construction specialists sometimes reside in different churches. We can handle more complex projects when we serve together.

    For one example of many, in 2013, attendees from five different churches worked on a very large repair and painting project to help relieve a senior couple of a citation and a looming court date and fine. The churches were from different parts of town and crossed racial lines.

    Together, we:

      Johnsons - Before and Adter 1
    • Removed gutters, replaced a lot of rotten wood and 1,000+ feet of wood siding
    • Pressure washed, primed as needed, and painted the whole house
    • Trimmed trees obstructing drivers’ vision & other miscellaneous items

    Is there something that you dream of doing but can’t because you just don’t have the man- (or woman) power? Maybe reaching out to another Bible-believing church can help you make a bigger impact!

    Engaging Your Yutes

    Youth ServingDoes your church struggle for ways to get the youth out in the community and serving in a meaningful way?

    Or maybe you'd like to have them serving on a more regular cadence? That raises two small questions - how do you do that and where can they serve?

    We'd like to suggest an alternative that can be a great way to engage youth. Getting your youth involved in simple home repair or cleanup projects can potentially have five really important benefits:

    1) You don't need a ton of supplies or resources. A couple yard tools, some garbage bags, a supervisor and voila, you have a community outreach opportunity.

    2) A home repair or yard cleanup can get your youth in direct contact with people in need. This might be their first direct exposure to poverty or to vulnerable people groups who need to see Christ's love.

    3) Your youth can serve members in your congregation who need a little help. Maybe a single mom is overwhelmed and needs her lawn mowed or a widow needs leaves cleaned up from her yard. Wouldn't it be a good witness to the world to see your youth serving your congregation members? Could that be one way that church members love one another? John 13:34-35 (NIV)

    4) For kids who have not been exposed to serving others before, especially those who are handy or enjoy the outdoors, they might actually discover that they actually like serving and helping others.

    5) You kids can see that Kingdom service doesn't necessarily require travelling overseas or a huge, exotic project. A small, "mundane" task done with a heavenly spirit can bring a lot of joy to both the recipient and the giver.

    As Brother Lawrence, 17th century lay monk said, "We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed."