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Accessibility – A Growing Ministry Opportunity All Around Us

A family using their wheelchair rampOne of the things we have learned in our years of ministry is that volunteers love to build wheelchair ramps. Why? Because they get to turn a big pile of lumber into a critically needed structure which can change someone's life, in one day.

There is a huge need for accessible housing for people struggling with disabilities or the aging process. Did you know that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau*, almost 19% of the civilian non-institutionalized population had a disability in 2010? About 12.6% had a severe disability. Over twelve million people (over age six) are disabled to the point of needing personal assistance for everyday activities. In aggregate, disabled people are the largest minority group in the country, coming in at around 56.7 million. 38.3 million have a severe disability.

As the population ages, these numbers should increase. That means more homeowners who no longer having full access to their homes. Imagine if, suddenly, you could no longer easily get out of your house or into the bathroom. Or that you couldn’t easily get out of the house to see friends and family or even do the everyday tasks we so readily take for granted. These scenarios will likely become increasingly prevalent.

 Ramp Project with HomeownerThere are probably many ways to serve the disabled, here are two:

1) Start a home repair team in your church. Our website has a library, free of cost, to help you start or grow a home repair team in your church. What a beautiful picture - the (formerly) spiritually disabled, redeemed by Christ, helping show the physically disabled the love and grace of God!

2) Make a financial donation to support HRM's work to serve people in need, including those with disabilities. Ramps in particular can be quite expensive to build, and often our clients cannot afford the materials.

*Statistics sourced from Census Bureau report "Americans with Disabilities: 2010 Household Economic Studies” - http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf


Categories: Accessibility Tags:

Mercy Ministry's Tension - Loving With Discernment Part Two

In Monday's blog post, we shared a bit about how we get project referrals and set guidelines and expectations with homeowners. This is necessary because one of the risks that we face, as mercy ministries, is getting scammed. So how do you put some safeguards in place to minimize this risk and vet the people you serve?

Some ideas that will help, but none are foolproof:

  • Request recommendations from someone that knows them and their situation, e.g. their local church, social worker, hospital staff, senior services agency or even their medical professional.
  • Get their last 3 payroll stubs or Social Security receipts, etc.
  • Make sure they own the house, get copy of utility bills.
  • Take a look at the house, cars, furniture, etc. Do the pieces fit into a familiar pattern of hurt or is something awry?

If you take a volunteer into the wrong house that sends all of the wrong signals, your volunteer may be busy the next time you ask for help.

November 2012 Roof ProjectA word of caution, however. We want to be the hands and feet of Christ in the community. People in some communities have been practicing “survive any way you can” for generations. There are also many who, entirely legitimately, are hurting for reasons beyond their control. We sometimes talk about people hurting for three reasons: their own sin, someone’s sin against them and disasters/situations beyond anyone’s control (See Timothy Keller's excellent Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road for more detail on this). If the latter two cases are the reason, it would be terrible to have God’s resources available but withhold them because you heard about an outright scam by someone else. If my God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (real meaning: God owns everything), then I think He’s more concerned about my heart than being absolutely sure about the people that ask us for help. I’d much rather get scammed than not help one who has been sent by the Lord – it really helps to be listening to God’s Spirit to understand what to do.

It reminds me of a couple of passages of scripture: Matthew 10:16 - "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Deuteronomy 15:11 - " . . . I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’" Matthew 5:16 - "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

It isn’t easy, but it is God’s will that we are the conduit of his grace and mercy.


Mercy Ministry's Tension - Loving With Discernment Part One

My co-worker Jim and I spoke with a representative of Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta about being available to help those living in homes built by their chapter. We explained that two ways we get referrals are 1) from agencies that have pre-qualified the person needing help, and 2) those that hear about us or find out about us and initiate the contact. #1 is by far our preference because someone else has determined that the family is eligible for help.

Distressed House#2 raises some challenges. The first can be found in me: Tell me that someone has something for nothing and I might just get into the line. The same kind of thing happens with very nice citizens in the community. “Oh, HRM does home repairs for nothing? Well, put me on the list for new exterior paint job, break up and replace my old driveway, repaint all of my rooms with faux marbre columns and a Trompe L'oeil Mediterranean window scene, replace my dark granite countertops with lighter ones, . . . Oh, this is for people who cannot afford to make repairs, often to keep the home from being condemned, or under threat of paying a fine for not keeping the property up?“

A while back, we were at someone’s house when they heard what we do and were more than happy to let us help them until I used “dire circumstances” to describe what we do and he realized that he’d misunderstood.

Here's a real-life example of why we need to have some discernment. About a year and a half ago, we got word, from several sources, about a family that was homeschooling, closely connected to a home school group, and lived next door to someone from my church. The mother was fighting a losing battle with cancer, in and out of the hospital, getting meals brought in by many families, and having respiratory problems due to old carpet in the house. Six months after getting carpet donated and installed by HRM volunteers, we were called by a police detective to find out about what we’d done to help. It seems that the husband and wife had been scamming people for a long time, she was in jail, and there were many people who considered her to be a friend, really angry with her.

So, you want some suggestions on how to vet those you serve and how to balance love and discernment? Come back Friday for Part Two.


Is a Home Repair Team Right for Your Church?

A church's home repair team exists to serve it's own homeowners in need and as an outreach to your community. In both cases, we have found those most needing our services to typically be widows, single mothers, the elderly and disabled. If outreach is a priority for your church, a home repair ministry is an opportunity to share the gospel in Word and deed with these people.

If this sounds like a good idea, the next question becomes "is it right for us and can we do it?" Finding the answers will be helped by sharing what a home repair team is and what it is not.

1) A home repair team is typically not led by staff or leadership (at least, that's been our experience). A home repair team can be viewed as an opportunity to extend your congregation's involvement and outreach. In fact, the guys who run a home repair team can be the people in your church who aren't sure how and where to plug in and serve.

Find your handymen (and women), and the folks your leadership calls when you have a single mom with a repair need, and you've found your candidate to lead you local church's home repair team. We think that these guys exist in many churches.

2) A home repair team is scalable in scope. The size of your church should not be an impediment to starting a team. A simple home repair team can be two guys who help people out occasionally on weekends. In a larger church, or one with a lot of handymen, you can have several projects going on a month.

3) A home repair team does not have to raise a lot of money to fund projects. Your church can certainly choose to fund projects, but we try to either have the materials paid for by the homeowner (where feasible) or donated from local businesses or other non-profits.

Disaster Response4) A home repair ministry is a natural partner to a disaster response/recovery team. If your church participates in disaster recovery projects, a home repair ministry can help your team impact their community all throughout the year. More than likely you've already got the same types of skills on your team and are doing similar types of work. Instead of sending volunteers out a couple times a year, you can keep them busy every month, even weekly, if you have the people for it!

5) Starting a home repair ministry does require some forethought. Fortunately, our ministry and other churches have been through this before. In fact, we've been doing this for many years and learned a lot of good ideas and some not so good ones to avoid.

We've collected that information and made it available to churches at no charge on our website (you can make a suggested donation but it is not required). As we get more churches joining through our website, we desire to build a community that can share and learn with each other.

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Why We Serve Together With Many Churches

The short version of our ministry's Mission Statement is "Repairing Homes and Hearts as Churches Serve Together". The second part of that statement is very important to us because we believe serving together (assuming common essential core beliefs) is a strategic way to advance the Kingdom. Why?

  • Team shot in front of churchChurch teams begin to see each other serving in the community and realize they are not alone in their concerns. Relationships are established between teams.
  • Church teams become “iron sharpening iron” (Proverbs 27:17), recognizing that each church has individual gifts that contribute to the whole Body.
  • The community has the opportunity to observe what the followers of Jesus are doing to bless them, leading them to realize that the Church is an indispensible part of the community.
  • Movements similar to Unite! are strengthened at a grass roots ministry level. Pastors and leaders pray and plan together to address other common concerns.
  • Pastors are encouraged to connect with other pastors as they realize their Home Repair Teams are serving together.
  • Combined church efforts reflect Christ more visibly than smaller, single church efforts.
  • Working together reflects the unity we read about in Ephesians 4.


What about you? Do you have experience working across multiple churches and/or denominations? What has been your experience? If you've had some good successes, let us know and we'll share your story, if appropriate.


Engaging the Unengaged - Starting a Team in Your Church

We've talked quite a bit in the blog about the need for home repairs for widows, single mothers, the elderly and disabled, but aside from the primary blessings of serving Jesus and our brothers, sisters and neighbors, there is also a practical reasons for your church to consider a home repair team.

Handymen UnleashedIn almost every church there is a group of handy people that are called upon for their skills. Some help maintain the church building, some go on construction-related mission trips, and some help with the occasional odd job presented by a needy congregation member. Most of the time these previously mentioned groups serve when called upon, but they are not actively looking for projects. Did some faces and names come to mind?

Men (and women) on the periphery of the ministry are found in many churches but cannot figure out how to serve in the church if they don’t sing, teach, direct traffic, or participate in childcare. But, they can use their hands! When these people are engaged, there is an army of handymen ready to jump in and “get it done”.

So, what might move a church like yours toward starting a home repair ministry team?

  • An existing handyman group needs organizing or refining for effectiveness
  • There are interested men in the church
  • There is someone in the church with a need
  • The pastor or staff have the idea of starting a team for outreach purposes
  • To build a Men’s Ministry
  • There are needs in the community close to the church

So, one of the best ways to form a home repairs team is to identify these handy people and get them behind, and committed to, an effort to launch your home repairs ministry. Or, put another way, encourage them to do what they were already doing, only in a more organized and effective manner.

We can help you get started with a library of resources to help you start and run a team.


Should We Take the Project?

Once your home repair team is taking projects it is important to have criteria by which you can make a "go/no go" decision.

It is generally good practice not to make a snap decision on helping if there is any doubt. Get back to the team and talk about it. Make a visit or even multiple visits to the site with more people, if questions remain. It is easy to tell the homeowner that you need to present the information to the team so that they can make a decision.

Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. It could be as simple as sending a father and son to change the flush mechanism of a leaky toilet. It may not even be necessary to make a pre-project site visit. Let the person visiting the site evaluate and complete a project if possible.

What criteria will be used to evaluate a project and Go/No Go?

Projects should be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Broken down houseSize: Is it feasible for the team to tackle the project in terms of time and people needed?
  • Safety: Can you do the project without putting the homeowner, ministry, or volunteers at risk?
  • Skills Required: Does the team have the skills required to complete the project? You can run off your volunteers if you give them projects that they don't know how to handle.
  • Repair or Improvement: If the project is deemed a repair, it is eligible for volunteer assistance. If an improvement, unless it is absolutely necessary, it automatically becomes a referral to a professional. The exception to this is when an improvement is necessary because of a specific, critical situation (i.e. handicapped ramps). Sometimes special projects (playgrounds, fences) are considered if they make the home more “livable” for adults or children.
  • Financial Situation: While the ministry does not have rigid income requirements for assistance, the financial situation of the homeowner is considered. If the homeowner is struggling financially, then help may be offered based on assistance from a financial ministry.

What Tools Should Your Home Repair Ministry Keep On Hand?

from freeimages.com / J Boontje

from freeimages.com / J. Boontje

Depending on the size and complexity of the ministry, groups may wish to maintain a set of tools or rely upon volunteers to bring their own. For a list of recommended tools, see the "Suggested Tool List"¨ below. If volunteers are expected to bring their own tools, they should be made aware of this need at the time of their recruitment. Any promise by the ministry to replace personal tools that are broken or stolen during a home repair project should also be made known.

We suggest each team member bring with him/her the following:

  • Hammer
  • Pair of work gloves
  • Pencil
  • Eye protection, dust mask
  • Nail apron

Additional useful tools to have access to:

  • Tape measure
  • Screwdrivers (Phillips and straight, manual and/or electric)
  • Chisels
  • Utility knife
  • Adjustable pliers, needle-nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Flashlight
  • Painting tools - 4" brush, roller & paint pan, masking tape, scraper, drop cloths, spackle, sandpaper
  • Speed square and team framing square
  • Chalk line
  • A selection of nails and screws
  • Putty knives
  • Adjustable wrenches
  • Circular saw
  • Variable speed/reversible drill, drill bits, screwdriver bits
  • WD-40 or equivalent
  • Sawhorse set and plywood tabletop
  • Ladders (both A-frame and extension)
  • Hand saw, wrecking bar, pry bar, level
  • Extension cords and two prong adopter
  • Clean-up supplies (trash bage, paper towels, hand cleanser, etc.)
  • Ice chest full of water, sport drinks, soda

Plus any other tools specific to the project undertaken.


Categories: About the Ministry, Tool Tips Tags:

The Purpose of A Home Repair Ministry Team

Churches Serving TogetherThe purpose of the local church home repairs team is to serve hurting people and to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to them by first addressing a physical need: that of home maintenance and repairs. Home Repair teams can also serve other support agencies, organizations, and non-profit ministries who serve the needy in their community.

Any homeowner knows that there never seems to be enough time for all of the home repairs and maintenance a house requires. For most of us, this is an overwhelming but attainable job. For many widows, single moms, elderly people, disabled people, and non-profit ministries, this is an impossible job due to lack of funds, skills, and/or knowledge. The local church home repairs team exists to meet this need.

The goal of the team is to address a physical need while showing those they serve Jesus, the Master Carpenter, whose “home repairs” never break or wear out, and to connect them when possible to other ministries within a local church and the Christian community as a whole.

Interested, but don't know where to start? We have resources to help you get started.


Categories: About the Ministry, Evangelism, Service Tags:

How Do I Set Up A Home Repair Team, Part III

Roof projectThis is the third and final part of the three-part blog series, "How Do I Set Up a Home Repair Team?" In the first post, we looked at the ministry leadership team and role. In the second blog, we looked at the all-important Project Leader role.

Today we conclude by looking at the Project Coordinator and Tradesman roles. If your team looks a little different and doesn't have all of these positions, that's fine. These are suggestions only.

Project Coordinator

  • Contacts the homeowner to obtain a thorough description of items that need to be addressed
    

  • Visits the homeowner during the scoping of the project (preferably along with the PL)
    

  • Assists the PL and Leadership Team in contacting volunteers for the project
  • Follows up with the homeowner to address any additional concerns, put them in contact with other ministries, etc.
  • Periodically updates the homeowner on the status of the project


Tradesmen

  • Individuals who work professionally or are very accomplished in a particular skill
  • Provide non-leadership expertise for specific needs / projects

      For more suggestions for starting and running a home repair team as a mercy/outreach ministry, sign up for our resources at no cost!
      Read the rest of the series:

      Part 1       Part 2