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Strength in Numbers

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 shows that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (NRSV) We’ve seen that wisdom from God lived out in our ministry.

We were desiring to serve more people and grow the ministry, but increasing the budget wasn't an option. Sound familiar?

We knew that we needed help, so late in 2012, we asked several of our top volunteers to come on as an Advisory team that we now call “The Core Team”. They were originally intended to be a sounding Board and operational assistance for our two staff. They have been more valuable than we could have imagined (in fact, most off them have joined our Board of Directors!).

With their individual skills, strengths and passions, they have helped in a number of areas:

  1. Managing home repair and accessibility projects (allowing the ministry to multiply impact).
  2. Helping us update our overall direction for the ministry and strategic plan. Like Proverbs 11:14 teaches, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (ESV).
  3. Connecting with a foundation, which allowed for a very helpful discussion about how we present what we do and what foundations look for.
  4. Perhaps most importantly, giving us encouragement!

  5. How about you? Are there areas where your ministry wants to improve or expand, but you don’t have enough staff and Board to tackle it all? Have you fully leveraged your ministry’s “super volunteers”?

    2011 photos and videos 3995Did a face or name pop into your mind? If not, can you think of people who work with you regularly, with the heart, commitment, vision and availability to take on more and provide your critical services to the community? It might start simply with some men and women providing some new ideas and insights - plotting out your most critical needs and next steps.

    And looking at it from the other side, are you managing your faithful volunteers well? Are there opportunities that you could be providing for them to grow and feel more valued? By fully leveraging volunteers (while being respectful of schedules!), everyone wins – your organization can provide more services, volunteers are challenged and allowed to grow, and the community gets more needs met!

Categories: Ministry Impact, Volunteers Tags:

Turning Outreach on It's Head

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that outreach is important to the church. It’s one of the ways that we try to engage with folks and fulfill the Great Commission.

What we're going to talk about in this blog isn't intended to downplay personal outreach and evangelism - those will always be important and probably the most effective methods. But what we're talking about here is church-wide outreach.

Forgive the following over-simplification, but here’s something of what it usually seems to look like. A church wants to meet some folks in the community, so they hold an event or open house. People come, say “hey”, and hopefully decide to return to your church the next week. But maybe, in today’s “show me” culture, it’s time to look at that model again, or at least supplement it.

What if your church could offer a critical service and meet the community at their own front doors, literally?

And what if outreach was the community looking to your church for desperately needed help and inviting you to their homes? Think about that last part. Outreach = people inviting you to come to them. In their hour of need and on their own ground. Sounds pretty compelling, doesn’t it?

2011_4I think that a lot of churches have that opportunity and aren’t even aware of it. The opportunity I’m talking about is a home repair ministry. Most churches probably have one or two guys (or ladies) that can be called on when something goes wrong with someone’s house. By taking that informal team and ramping up a bit, you can be a vital part of the community that gets turned to when a local non-profit agency has an elderly widow with a leaky sink. Or, when someone recently disabled needs a wheelchair ramp in order to get in or out of their house. With a few community connections, or maybe even by joining up with another church or two, you might even be able to find a low or no cost option for a senior whose heater breaks down in the deep of winter.

And do you think these people might possibly be receptive to discussion and/or prayer after you’re done?

Making a Great Volunteer Experience

Do your volunteers leave feeling fulfilled?

I used to think that people served because they thought they were needed. However, over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are many things driving volunteers. Based on these driving forces, here are a few things l keep in mind:

    Skilled HRM volunteer
  • Have I asked the Lord for the right volunteers?
  • When the volunteers arrive at the worksite, have they had the opportunity to meet the homeowner or nonprofit staff we’re serving?
  • Am I ready to make assignments and have them start as soon as we kickoff the day with a short devotion and prayer?
  • Are the needed tools and materials on site?
  • Is the project laid out so there isn’t any down time while someone figures out how/where it goes?
  • Are the needed skills available so I’m not asking people to do things that are beyond their capacity or beneath them (though a reasonable challenge is acceptable, we don’t recruit certain skilled carpenters to paint or do yard work)?
  • Have I planned to break up a large project into multiple days so as not to go too late in one day (unless they expect to go longer than usual)?
  • When the volunteers leave at the end of the serving day, do they feel like their time was invested well (with little standing around), that the “client” was “truly needy”, and though tired, feel like they want to do this again?

HRM Group shotI let the thoughts above shape whom we serve, what size and type of project we tackle, who we recruit, and I try to project how I would feel as a volunteer on the project.

Lastly, when a project blows up in your face due to circumstances you cannot control, handle the situation with a smile to your volunteers, learn from it and move on to the next opportunity with a positive outlook. We live in a fallen world and Jesus is coming to restore God’s Kingdom to perfection unstained by sin – it is why He died! “. . . in this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 quoting Jesus.

Categories: Volunteers Tags:

Why Are These People Helping At Your Home?

The following blog is a short excerpt from an evangelism booklet that we created with the same name. The booklet explains the gospel in simple terms, both as God's mechanism of salvation and the motive for our volunteers to serve others in need. If you want to know more about God's plan of salvation and would like a copy of the booklet, please email us.

Do you wonder why these volunteers are working at your home today? Is it to feel good? To do a good deed and make the world a better place? To earn favor with God? The answer may not be what you think!

For most of your volunteers, the answer to the question is not to feel good or do a good deed. While that is part of the reason, it’s only a small part! What about earning favor with God? Believe it or not, that’s definitely NOT the reason! Why? Because the Bible teaches that people cannot earn God’s favor. It’s impossible for us to do that!

Why Are These People Helping at Your Home - Evangelism BookletThe real reason we are here is - God has already done everything needed for us to have a right relationship with Him! He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die for the wrongs we have done (sin) and offer us a wonderful life with Him that begins the second we accept His gift! Romans 5:8 says - ”But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Because of that great news, we are serving you to say, “Thank you!” to Him and to show you His love in a real, practical way.

A special "thank you" to volunteer Bill K. for his help with putting this together.

Categories: Evangelism, The Gospel Tags:

Mercy Ministry - Embrace the Mess!

Mercy ministry involves getting involved in people's lives, often in very messy situations. It can be exasperating and difficult... And it could be considered one of the purest representations of the gospel there is.

Someone comes alongside a person in need, oftentimes in a terrible state, offers help or resources that they do not have access to (or technically deserve) to help them with their current dilemma and loves on them beyond anything that they deserve. Sometimes the person helping can even offer training or skills to help that person get out of their mess.

Does that sound familiar at all? What a great picture of the gospel! God finds us in a self-inflicted mess caused by our sin, out of love offers us hope and a real solution through Jesus Christ, and gives us the resources through the Holy Spirit to change.

As Ephesians 2:4 so well puts it, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” (NKJV)

Mercy Ministry - Embrace the MessPerhaps it’s another aspect of God’s mercy that He, who found sinners like us, in much the same state, uses us as instruments of His grace to others in need? How cool is that?

So, if you’re handy (even if it’s just cleaning an elderly person’s or single mother’s yard), a home repair ministry is a great way to exhibit and share God’s mercy. A nice side benefit of a home repair ministry is that it’s not terribly likely to cause someone to become dependent and create another “messy cycle” (for reasons mentioned in our blog, Avoiding the Dependency Trap). If you have some handyman skills but are not sure where or how to start your own ministry, please sign up for our resource library. We can help you.

Handy Man and Woman, God Wants to Use You!

Romans 12:6-8 tells us that, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Theologian John Wesley had a quote with a similar message, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

Both Paul and John Wesley are encouraging the same thing – for every follower of Christ to serve and to use the gifts and abilities the Lord has bestowed on them. What an encouragement to those of us without the “sexy” spiritual gifts. I think that some people get discouraged because they don’t teach, can’t sing and aren’t good with kids.

Working on a ProjectWell, if you are a handyman (or woman), God has some great news for you! You have gifts to use in service of the Kingdom and low-income and struggling homeowners. What a difference you can make for single mothers, widows, the elderly and disabled without the means or abilities to make needed repairs or accessibility upgrades! Your ability to build and repair things can be a way for you to show Christ’s love to a member of the Body of Christ, and also to members of the community (along with the chance to show and share the gospel). Our ministry, home repair, in particular, provides a unique opportunity – the chance to engage with the homeowner at their invitation on their own turf.

Not sure how to get started or how to look for projects? Well, if you live in Atlanta, you can join us on a project! Even if you consider yourself unskilled, we can use you. Also, our ministry, Home Repairs Ministries, exists, among other reasons, to help churches start home repair teams so that they can get more projects and serve more people. Check out the ministry resource library, and let’s use the gifts God has given us, together, in service of Jesus the Savior!

Categories: Service, Volunteers Tags:

Avoiding the Dependency Trap

I’ve been involved in mercy ministry for many years and feel that a home repair ministry is one of the most helpful ministries out there. Following is a bit of my heart about that. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged, as I am, in your support of the ministry.

I remember serving in a soup kitchen and feeling as though I wasn’t helping much. The Lord put a high value on feeding the hungry (Matt 25: 31-46), so a soup kitchen is necessary, but addressing the immediate need isn’t always enough. My sense of falling short came because feeding/clothing, etc. often doesn’t move a person beyond needing someone to provide tomorrow’s soup.

TrainingMinistries that teach people skills to improve their current situation, such as job training, are classified as a developmental. But even that has sometimes left me feeling unsatisfied. My training is that I should aspire to become an advocate for “the poor,” working to change laws that hold people in the chains of oppression. So I can always find things to make me feel guilty about ministry, whether from biblical teaching or just my personality problems (of which there are many!). Ministries of mercy can be very complicated, even downright messy.

The good news (not specifically the Gospel, this time) is that a home repair ministry is in a unique spot. First, many of the people we serve are in situations where a repair is not likely to create a recurring dependency - an immediate need gets addressed and is unlikely to happen again soon after. On top of that, the situations we encounter seldom are due to a homeowner’s vice (unless neglect due to a lack of income is a vice) but all things are in decay. We help address the problem or needed change and the person gets on with her life. For example, a team builds a handicap ramp and the homeowner can now get in and out of the house. Good to go. Or an old roof is replaced with one that will outlive the owner and the structure of the house is protected.

Building a rampDevelopmental training of home owners to do home repairs isn’t often helpful, though tips on maintenance can be. Training an elderly diabetic amputee about wheelchair ramp construction isn’t likely to be useful to him. As for political advocacy, apart from legislation against people aging and homes decaying, there’s not much to do apart from more government funding of unlimited needs from limited resources.

In the last couple few years, several books have been written by people who have extensive experience working with “the poor”. Just hearing the titles of the books makes me stop and think: When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett, and Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton. To a simple person like me who likes to address problems wearing a tool belt, while helping others to do the same, all of that knowledge tends to be “bad news” – making efforts to help people even more complicated and messy.

But now, let me take you back to the “good news”: The issues raised in these books generally don’t apply to our ministry. The people we serve face some very difficult situations, but their problems are not usually brought on by laziness or chronic dependency. While we can’t fix all of their difficulties, we can keep homes from becoming a toxic problem that hurts!

Oh, and wouldn’t it be great if a project were followed up by relational people who visit the homeowner (who didn’t learn to fix the roof) and bring some of our monthly mailing envelopes to stuff, together, while talking about the love of God demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus (the BEST NEWS of all). Dependency on the Savior is exactly where He wants us! I Peter 5:7 — "...casting all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you." If you have good relational, evangelistic skills, and live in the Atlanta area (even if you don’t have tool skills), we can use you. Please contact me and we’ll plug you in.

Advocacy – the Power of Community Connections

In a service ministry, it really is all about relationships. Human connections help us find homeowners in need, present partnership opportunities at other non-profits and build partnership opportunities with companies looking to make an impact in the neighborhood. In essence, they help us build service value networks.

Building these networks presents opportunities to meet needs, and that is perhaps best illustrated when we are able to advocate on behalf of a homeowner. In our ministry context of home repair, advocacy typically refers to helping someone who has an urgent need connect with a vital community resource, resulting in the homeowner’s crisis being resolved, possibly at low or no cost.

Here are a couple recent real-life example to show you how this all works.

We have relationships with many local non-profit organizations. When we run across a client who has a need we can’t meet, we can pass them along to another non-profit that can help meet their need. That also happens in reverse.

A couple days ago, we got a call from an elderly lady whose air conditioner conked out. She was referred to us by another agency. After speaking with her further and understanding her need, we were able to connect a local heating and air company that has a huge heart and has worked with us in the past.

They were able to go out, look at her air conditioner, and fix it for her. They donated the repairs to her. Without these community connections, we would not have been able to help her and meet her need.

We encountered a similar need in December of 2011 when we got a call from a widow whose heater stopped working. She called us to ask what to do. She had called an HVAC company, and after we talked with them, they graciously marked her bill down to cost. We called another non-profit connection that was able to pay the remainder.

Categories: Community Partnerships Tags:

Delivering the Gift

Delivering the Gift.

freeimages.com/Charles Thompson

Have you ever given a special gift to someone, perhaps your child, and been so excited, it was all you could do not to give it away beforehand? I think that God finds great delight in providing the many blessings (His gifts to us - often spiritual) that He lavishes on His children (Matthew 7:11). Did you ever stop and think that there’s a sense in which God allows those of us involved in mercy ministry to be gift-bringers on His behalf?

For His children, God makes many promises in the Bible. Some of them, relating to God’s mercy and love are:

• To be their Provider (Philippians 4:19, Matthew 6:31-33)
• To bless them and watch over them (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Romans 8:28-29)
• To be a shelter in the storms believers face (Psalm 18:30, Isaiah 41:10)

Through common grace (God blessings to all mankind, such as restraint of evil, the basic requirements for life like air, water and food, other people, skills to do jobs, shelter etc.), God even gives tremendous gifts to those who have not given their lives to Him through Jesus.

How cool is it, then, when God allows us to be the bearer of the awesome gifts that He bestows on people? Maybe we even share with the homeowner God’s ultimate gift - salvation, peace, eternal life and life more abundant here on earth, and a relationship with the God of the universe through Jesus Christ!

Mr. or Ms. Handywoman, when you build a wheelchair ramp, remove rotten siding, replace a leaking roof or even fix a simple toilet flapper, you are personally delivering God’s love gift to that person.

If you’re a handy person, but have not formally gotten involved in ministry, how about using your skills and abilities to love and serve others, and be a “deliveryman” from God with the message, and the proof that, “He loves you!”. If you’re interested, send us a note and let’s talk through it. We'd love to help you get started. If you live in metro-Atlanta, why don't you help deliver the gift with us here on a local project.

Categories: About the Ministry, Devotionals, Service Tags:

Disaster Recovery and Salvation - The Connection

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a disaster simulation where newbies can get a taste and consider getting trained further. We experienced a hurricane in the a.m. and a tornado in the afternoon. What was new for me, having followed up both of those kinds of disasters, was being part of the second wave of responders that does assessments (we usually arrive during the relief phase, addressing what was already assessed) and finding injured actors from the tornado. When we found injured people in the woods, we would report by radio to the Georgia Army National Guard on site. HRM does this because ongoing home repair is complimentary to disaster response. We find that it is easier for churches to respond to a critical need if they have a home repair team organized.

This response has spiritual application because we’re usually helping people that 1) either don’t have insurance, or 2) need to cover up until insurance adjusters arrive. We are often their only option for help. God wants us to approach Him with the same attitude as those picking up from a disaster - broken, helpless and looking for a savior and helper. And God, being rich in love and mercy, responds not because we are entitled or have accomplished something, but always by His mercy and grace. In Him we find salvation and grace to endure the hardships of a fallen world. We pray that people will see God’s grace in our help and embrace eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Since the gospel has freed us and heaven is ahead let’s serve Him with all we’ve got and bring a little taste of heaven to earth!

Categories: Disaster Recovery, Evangelism Tags: