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Service

Articles about helping those in need and outreaching to them.

Home Repairs and Single Mothers - An Outreach Opportunity

In November, we talked a bit about one of the groups which we actively serve with home repairs and accessibility updates – the elderly.

This month, we’ll talk about another group that we regularly serve which often has need of the services that churches and our ministry provide – single mothers. As with the elderly population, the percentage of single mother families is exploding.

Did you know that single parents have more than tripled as a share of American households since 19601? 38.4% of single mother families with children under 18 are below the poverty line (compared with 8.9% of married parent families with children under 18)2. In fact, a report of Colorado mothers, released by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute (2008), states that more than half of the single-mother households lack the income to meet basic needs of living. These numbers point to a group of people in significant financial distress.

Even for those single mothers not in poverty, the time demands and commitments on a single mother can make it hard to focus on anything other than surviving.

So, how can you and your church serve a burdened, stressed out single mother in need of loving, practical help? We’d like to suggest that a great way to do that is through a home repair ministry.

  • You and your church can be Jesus’ hands and feet by helping with an important need before it becomes a more expensive problem and/or a safety hazard for her and her children.
  • You can show Christ's love to the family be being there and sharing why you're serving them. As you can see in this video testimonial, the supportive presence can be as important as the material need being met.
  • You'll lighten the load of her often difficult financial situation. A church home repair team (or a group of them) can provide free labor and maybe even materials (you may be able to get them donated from a local business, church or non-profit).
  • It's a tremendous outreach opportunity! Did you know that 67% of all single mothers do not actively attend a local church?3

Footnotes:
1 The Mysterious and Alarming Rise of Single Parenthood in America, The Atlantic by Aparna Mathur, Hao Fu, and Peter Hansen Sep 3 2013
Footnotes:
2 U. S. Census Bureau, America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012, Table 5. Family Groups With Children Under 18 by Selected Characteristics: CPS 2012
Footnotes:
3 The Church and the Single Mom, by Jennifer Maggio, posted on Crosswalk.com


Categories: Outreach, Service, Single Mothers 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?


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:

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:

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.


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:

The Wrong Way, and the Right Way to Serve

Knight in shining armor

from freeimages.com / Kamila Turton

Are you a knumbskull like me? A while back, I had the chance to help serve a hurting family in my church by hanging out with one of the kids. And, on top of that, it was to help my wife out out, who was working with the mom. So Gallahad came riding in with a heart as big as Montana to save the day, right? Ummm, not so much.

See, I am not a “kid person”, and I didn’t want to have to deal with the potential aggravation after work. I did go, but I initially went into it kicking and screaming when my wife called asking for help. Nice, huh?

Well, God got my heart tuned the right direction, eventually, and I apologized to my wife on the ride over. The night went alright and some important work got done. But what a great (negative) lesson in our attitude in service. Too often, I don’t head into it with a heart of joy and grace. Unlike a terrific biblical model for responding to a need in the church, the Macedonians.

Here is the famous passage from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:1 – 5 (NIV presented here).

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.


Wow, talk about the heart of a servant and love for fellow believers! Even as they were undergoing affliction, they were, as my pastor described it, “giddy” with the privilege to support and help the church. How cool is that? And what a humbling reminder of the need to serve with the right attitude. Especially those in the church. As Jesus said in John's gospel (13:34-35) - "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (NIV)."

May I, and we all, grow to be better Macedonians, first giving ourselves over to the Lord in service as we love our brothers, sisters and others.

Jim

Categories: Devotionals, Lessons Learned, Service Tags:

The Ministry Opportunity You May Be Sitting On

Churches are trying to get the most outreach impact they can from available resources, but there’s a tricky issue – available resource. On top of that, we know we have limited hours in a day and can feel it - palpably. Churches have to be smart and strategic in the Kingdom work they do to be good and faithful stewards of what God has given them.

Home Repairs GuySo here’s the punchline. For this opportunity, you may not need to think about starting a new ministry. Your church may already be sitting on top of one that already exists (or at least has the potential to exist) in your church! Think about this. Who’s the guy you call or would call if you had a widow in your church with a leaky faucet? Who is always helping out when something breaks or needs to get built. Does a face or two spring to mind? Odds are pretty good that this person may not be formally plugged in with a ministry and has trouble figuring out where and how to serve. Why wouldn’t you want that guy reaching out to more people in your congregation or your community? Maybe it’s time to turn ‘em loose!

Widow on new deckAnd you do that by starting a home repair ministry. A home repair ministry is an opportunity for your church to love on and serve your widows, single moms, elderly and disabled members, and to serve these same groups out in your community. In fact, once your team learns how to get referrals you may find what our Executive Director describes as a very odd phenomonon. People in your comumnity inviting your Christ-followers into their homes. How's that for an outreach opportunity? Cool, huh?

You’re probably thinking that this sounds good, but let’s get real, staff and ministry leaders don’t have time to throw at another ad hoc thing. The beauty of a home repairs ministry is that it’s designed to be lay-led. Past receiving the occasional update, staff doesn’t have to get further involved unless they want to.

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to get started, we have a library of content including ministry vision, how to get started, how and where to get referrals, project management, volunteer management and more. We like to think of it as a home repair ministry “in a box”. Get a Sneak Peek of what's available!

We also provide access to a network of churches with home repair ministries (right now mainly in Atlanta, but starting to spread nationally). Will you join us? We do not charge for the site (but you can make a donation if you are able). Check out what you get from Home Repairs Ministries

You can also click “Contact Us” near the bottom of this webpage to directly contact us with questions you might have.