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Best Practices

Ideas for how to grow your service, outreach and mercy ministries.

Multiplying Impact By Serving Foster Families

By the grace of God, we're regularly learning new things... Our priority is to be good stewards of the resources God gives us, and the financial investments that our supporters and volunteers have made, so that relief, Christ's love and the gospel is brought to as many hurting people as possible. For years, we've had a clear sense of the best ways we can do that, but last year God reminded us of another way we can advance and grow His Kingdom.

Making modifications to allow for fosteringLast year, three families came to us who were looking to answer God’s call on their lives to adopt or rescue children from the foster care system. To do that, though, they needed some modifications to their homes. That is a little different than how we have typically served in the past.

I greatly admire foster parents. They open up their homes to children from broken homes, often with emotional wounds, to provide them with stability and love. Family dynamics are disrupted. Foster parents have to deal with bureaucracies and be ready to give back the children on short notice. Why do they do it, then? For many, it’s a response to the gospel, as they remember the extraordinary lengths God has gone to, to save them from their sin, and claim them for His very own children. And they may well be remembering that God never gives His foster kids back! His heart for orphans is very clear. James 1:27 reminds us, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (NKJV).

HRM saw a chance to multiply ministry by impacting some kids’ lives, and who knows how many others, so we took the requests as “from the LORD”. Their needs were different on the specifics, but they all needed HRM's help to make fostering or adoption possible.

If you have a service ministry or agency, how do you multiply community impact? Leave a comment below and let us know.



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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



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!


Passing it On

1969 was a big music year. The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" was released and the Woodstock concert was held on a dairy farm in the Catskills. The same year, a song called “Pass it On” (copyright Bud John Songs, Inc, Words and Music by Kurt Kaiser) entered the church. The song began, “It only takes a spark to get a fire going . . . . that’s how it is with God’s love, you want to pass it on”.

Serving homeownersFor those of us in Christian ministry, the song embodies what we're going for - sharing God's love with others. That love is often expressed in meeting someone needs. But it can also be expressed in teaching someone a skill so that they can deal with future problems themselves.

A home repair ministry gives us an opportunity to do both. We can often relieve a pressing problem for the homeowner, but having worked in inner-city ministry for many years, my mind immediately focuses on making ministry developmental - giving people skills & knowledge to improve their situation rather than keeping them dependent on us. The last thing we want to do is hurt the people that we’re trying to help. In fact, that’s the central theme of Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett’s book, When Helping Hurts. We actually got to meet and talk with Steve at a church conference we went to in June, 2013. He gave us some great ideas and challenged us to make sure that we don’t ultimately hurt the people we serve.

What about situations where it either isn't practical of possible to pass along a skill, say because of age, safety or complexity? Even in situations like this, we have much more to offer - the Gospel! It came to me freely, by God’s grace, and the expectation is that I won’t keep it to myself, as though it isn’t worth sharing or that I’m hoarding it. 

Passing the Baton

from freeimages.com / Michal Zacharzewski

Perhaps it’s like a relay race, where, unless there is a successful ‘passing’ of the baton by the lead runner, the race is over for a team. Like that runner, my job, as one who has benefitted from the promises of God in Jesus, is to offer the Gospel in an engaging way to someone else (who will then carry it to others). 

On the flip side, if we make appealing attempts at spiritual discussion and the person we are serving doesn’t want to receive “the baton”, we don’t force it on him or her. We can’t make others receive Jesus. At some point, the person we just served may be ready to receive the offer of eternal life in Christ from someone else.


3 Ways You Can Have More Impact Without More Budget

Collaborating with other service agencies can help you, as it helps our ministry, work more efficiently and get more done. How?

Building a Ramp1) Getting projects via referral. We get a good percentage of our projects in this manner. Your church or service/outreach ministry might be able to, also! Each community partner you work with has a unique “sweet spot” where they focus.

Here's an example from our world. Often, our community partner's specialty is with survival basics such as food, clothing, rent, utility funds and counseling. But when their low-income, home-owning clients have a repair or accessibility need they can’t meet, they often send them to us. Sometimes, they even send along materials funding! Are there partner organizations in your community who need your services? And, if you turn it around, are there services that your congregants or clients need that a community partner can help with?

Working together like this can make everyone involved more efficient and effective, as well as make things easier for people needing help.

2) You can get more projects done more quickly. Again, using our experience as an example, we save time by getting most of our projects from referrals (from other nonprofits and service agencies) and having many of them come to us pre-qualified. That helps us do more projects in a shorter time period. Rather than chasing down needs and having to qualify them all ourselves, we get to focus on how we might help and “rounding up the troops.”

If you developed tight relationships with some trusted agencies, could you leverage the power of pre-qualification to get more done and have a greater impact?

Handymen Unleashed3) You might have heard us talk about this before, but serving other non-profits and agencies by helping them serve more (in our case, by improving, repairing or maintaining their facilities) is a highly strategic community investment. We don’t just serve an organization, we help impact the thousands of people they are serving, and in some cases, the additional thousands more they can help because of the improvement!

It may look different for your church, ministry or organization, but if you are involved in serving and helping people, can you leverage your unique skills and abilities to help other organizations make a bigger impact for the Kingdom of Christ?

For Christian organizations, it brings to mind what Paul says about the church in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.



Increasing Ministry Impact by Doing Less (...ourselves)

If you have been following the ministry for a while, you know that our heart is to extend the gospel, our outreach and the ministry as far as we can while uniting the church together in service. Last year’s strategy was built around providing a toolkit and resources for churches to launch their own ministries. This year, we are making an adjustment and adding an element we lacked last year - one that we believe will help more churches start teams and more projects get done.

We have been blessed with some very gifted volunteers but until now, have not organized them to act together. We are convinced that we can use volunteers more effectively for leadership roles on projects and in assisting in all aspects of running the ministry. The last couple months, we have been meeting with some faithful people that have been involved and committed to the vision of HRM and are now stepping up to use their time and expertise in critical focus areas. These areas include project site visits & leadership, networking to professional resources, fundraising, planning, supporting existing church teams, and ministry expansion into other areas of Metro Atlanta. We are currently calling the group The Core Team. It will act both as an advisory board and an implementation team.

If you're in Atlanta and you, or someone you know, have a heart for this kind of thing, please let me know. We think this is an excellent strategy to increase our impact and number of projects in 2013 from around 50 to 75 and the number of churches participating from 15 to 23.


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.


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.

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


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

Roof projectThis is part two of the blog series, "How Do I Set Up a Home Repair Team?"

In the first post, we looked at the ministry leadership team and role. This series is one possible way to set up a home repair team as a mercy or outreach ministry (and probably represents a more mature ministry, although the ideas here should hopefully be very helpful to younger ministries as well). If yours looks different, that's fine. Use what works.

Today we look at one of the most important members of your home repair ministry, the Project Leader.

Project Leader Responsibilities

  • Prior to Project
    • Estimates and confirms scope of the project
    • Works with Home Repairs Leadership to establish Project Date
    • Synchronizes with Project Coordinator (if necessary) to contact homeowner
    • Insures confirmed volunteers have been contacted and have date/start time/directions, etc.

    • Project Day
        Project Day
      • Arranges for necessary supplies to be available when needed
        • Obtains as much as possible in advance
        • Plans for supply run(s)
        • Delays start of volunteers if materials are late or other delays occur
      • Assigns work to volunteers
      • Insures work is conducted in a safe manner
      • Verifies that assigned volunteer tasks match their abilities
      • Makes sure appropriate tools and safety equipment are used
      • Insures that team operates in a respectful, polite manner
        • The team represents your church
        • Most importantly, the team members serve as ambassadors of Jesus Christ
        • If there is a problem with someone on the team who may not understand this issue, please refer the situation to one of the leadership team members
      • Insures that job site is cleaned up and any debris removed

      • Post Project Follow up
        • Notify Home Repairs Leadership of final status of project for the day
          • What was completed
          • What was not completed
          • Any additional requests/issues
          • Final list of volunteers
        • Turn in expenses for reimbursement

      Our goal in handling projects is that from the time we get a project on the list to the time we complete the project should be no more than 3 months, preferably.
      Read the rest of the series:

      Part 1       Part 3