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Churches Serving Together

Articles about the need for unity within the Body of Christ (the Church) and serving together.

Unity - Why We Serve with Many Denominations

You may have noticed that Home Repairs Ministries (HRM) seems to put a high value on getting the Body of Christ together. Some of that is based on this passage from Ephesians chapter 4: 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (English Standard Version)

The passage has a mind-boggling number of possible applications and mis-applications but here is what jumps out to me.

Serving TogetherVerse 2 addresses our attitude toward other believers (I read denominations, persuasions, etc.). It states that there is a unity of the Spirit. Gathering to serve is not the basis of unity, but is a result of it. We are to walk in a manner that maintains oneness and we should do it eagerly. Do you find joy in crossing the lines drawn between Christians? I have finally begun crossing lines after repenting for years of drawing lines.

The basis of the unity is the fact that Christians share the same:

  • Lord (Jesus) through faith in Him
  • Baptism through which we are identified with Him.
  • God and Father, the omnipresent Ruler who lives in His children through the Holy Spirit

That should be more than enough to maintain unity.

Churches serving togetherWhat about questions where we may disagree, such as when and how we baptize? Rather than disputing about ideas which are important, but which are not vital to our relationship with God, can’t we find our deep commonality in the cross of Christ? With that connectedness, we can move to the “Do’s” and find that God has called us to “...do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. Those three phrases certainly draw us together, especially when we are humble with one another and with God.

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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!

    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 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!

    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!

    Men + Tools = Happy Men

    Building the RampHave you ever noticed what happens when you put a tool in a man’s hand (well, some men, anyway. And, for that matter, some women, too!)? He is immediately in his element. He has a means to fix things (insider secret - if no one has told you, that’s what men do). It might be work, but deep down, something happens inside of him telling him, go forth and conquer.

    Something else pretty cool happens, too. Working with tools can become a bonding process. Some pretty significant walls and barriers get knocked down,even deep-rooted cultural ones. It becomes a way to unite around a common objective and focus on serving others.

    Isn’t it cool that God uses common tools as a way for some men to join Him in His work? And that He can use tools to unite His church in reaching out to those in need when different churches band together? What would it look like, at your church, if your handymen were caring for your single mothers and widows? How cool would it be if they were also out in the community, serving those outside the church, to show them a tangible expression of God’s love?

    Do you have handymen (and women) in your church who don’t know where to plug in to serve? A home repair ministry might be just the way to get them more regularly engaged and involved in outreach. And smiling as they grab their tools and get to work.

    Helping Other Organizations Better Serve the Community

    Does your church serve other churches or nonprofits so that all can make a bigger impact on the community? If so, congratulations! “Multiplication” of community impact is part of our heart, too, and our desire is to equip and come alongside others so that they can go and serve their congregations and neighborhoods for the glory of God. Here's a real-life example from a project we recently participated in at a local church.

    As an example, we served a church, in Roswell, on a project to help them with their community outreach. They wanted to move an after-school program for at-risk high school students into a new building, but it had a leaky roof. The program is a performance-based mentoring program that empowers the students to become contributing members, in their communities, by focusing on academic support, mentor and peer accountability, and life skills development.

    Several churches served together to fix the roof. HRM and the church we were serving together recruited volunteers, and we provided the project leadership. Three other churches also participated. Another loaned us nail guns. One of the volunteers from the church we were serving was a disabled Vietnam veteran. We developed a good relationship with the pastor, and his church expressed an interest in starting their own home repair team.

    Maybe soon they will be helping other churches and organizations to reach and serve more, too!

    We'd love to hear what you are doing to help others serve more. Please share your stories and experiences by leaving a comment.

    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.

    Confessions of a Former Christian Snob

    I grew up with a mindset that our own denomination had abandoned the Word of God and the Christ-centered faith it represented. However, about the time I married my wife, a new group started and we became part of it. Over the years, I was infected with the illness of disdain for other Christians not part of our group. In fact, at one point, one of my Christian objectives was to try to show everyone else the error of their ways.

    About fifteen years ago, I realized that when I stood before the throne of mercy, I would need mercy myself because of the misunderstandings I held regarding Kingdom living, loving God and others, Christ's mandate to serve others in need in light of His unspeakable sacrifice for me, etc. So if I need a vast outpouring of grace over those things, how in the world could I look askance at those who trust Christ alone for their salvation and faithfully follow Him, but do it with various approaches different from my own?

    That realization came about as I was beginning to make connections to pastors in the inner-city neighborhood where I was ministering. The conviction has only grown stronger since that time and it has been my joy to work with churches Unite!in the Unite! network in Atlanta. These have a commitment to make sure they have a "beyond the walls of the church" focus by forging a partnership of Christ-centered churches serving together. These churches have implemented initiatives that were strengthened as we addressed them side-by-side. The results have been amazing.

    The prayerIt’s in this spirit that we started our own outreach ministry - Home Repairs Ministries (HRM). While it’s true that HRM has given me a lot of joy (because I like to work with people with hand and tool skills who want to serve Christ and homeowners in need), I have another motive. I want to see the Body of Christ operating in an Ephesians 4 model of unity. Maybe it would be helpful to go back and read the first part of that chapter to see what I mean. Because of this desire, I get a lot of satisfaction when we put together a group of church teams several times a year when we need a large crowd to do a lot of work in a short time-period.

    Churches serving togetherHere's an example - in January, we re-roofed a widow's home in one day, which required many hands doing different tasks at the same time. On the site were six churches - two Baptist, two non-denominational, one Lutheran, and one Presbyterian. It was a mix of languages, races, and certainly theological perspectives. We didn't get hung up on points of disagreement and the elderly woman we served got a big hug from the Body of Jesus. We had a good devotion talking about why we serve and how we were responding to the mercy mandate of the Gospel and then we prayed for the homeowner and her sister (who claims the name of Christ). In projects, it is vital to balance the theological and practical, Word and deed, forbearance and truth in the main/plain things of the faith. But as Paul reminds us, “…the greatest of these is love.”


    Create Your Own Short-Term Mission Trip, Part Two

    So how do you start looking for your short-term mission trip opportunity? Here are some ideas to get you started:

    • Contact your local or county senior services agency volunteers coordinator to see what they know needs volunteers.
    • Contact Dept. of Family and Children’s Services (or whatever it is called near you) to see whether they know of a low-income family fostering children and in need of home repair help. This is especially needed where there are teens being fostered.
    • Contact agencies that help people with disabilities to see if they can direct you to a need.
    • Are there single mothers in your church network (members and their extended families and neighbors) whose homes need attention but cannot pay for maintenance?
    • Has there been a localized disaster, e.g. a flood or tornado that swept through a neighborhood (though it may not officially be a declared emergency, see how those in the path feel about it)? Contact your county or state Emergency Management Agency to see whom to contact about helping.
    • Inner-city/low-income neighborhood church leaders often know of someone in their congregation who needs help. Use the opportunity to serve alongside other Christ-followers.
    • Make sure that you have a waiver to cover accidents and your team. Also, make sure that your team members are insured!

    So How Do I Start a Home Repairs Team?

    Now that you’ve got a project, how do you start a team and what do you need? We’ve created a website – www.homerepairs.org – where we have collected the resources that can help you start up your own home repairs ministry at your church. You’ll find articles and forms that will take you through all phases of starting and running a ministry, a blog with posts from the front-lines of the ministry, a forum to ask and answer your tough questions (coming soon) and a list of churches by area to help you partner with other like-minded Christians. Sign up today and get your short term mission or youth trip ready for the summer!

    Read Part One of Creating Your Own Short-Term Mission Trip