Special Ministries for Your Ladies Department

Special Ministries for Your Ladies Department
By James D Berkley, editor

Social Involvement

Emergency Benevolence for Church Members

Even the most affluent congregations have members who may need emergency financial assistance. The loss of a job, a medical emergency, or some other extraordinary event in a church member’s life can bring that person to the church office with the plea: “Pastor, can the church help me financially right now?”

Historical Precedents

From the earliest days, the church has aided its members in need. The Old Testament speaks of helping the poor, who are God’s chosen people. For example, they are allowed to glean the fields and vineyards (Lev. 19:9-10), and every third year they are to be given the tithe all Jews were to offer to the Lord (Deut. 14:28-29). Jesus, him self poor, told a rich young man to sell what he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21).

In the early church, Paul carried a money collection from Macedonia to Jerusalem for the needy in Judea. The church held property in common so that no one would be needy (Acts 2:45; 4:34). All were to be at work, however; idleness and hand outs were not to be known. Anyone who was unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10-13).

Modern Procedures

To aid members when a crisis hits, congregations often set up benevolence funds. The most frequent method is the pastor’s benevolence fund, directed and controlled by the pastor or other designated person. Some churches support this fund by appropriating the loose offering one Sunday each month. Other churches have a line item in the budget specifying a set amount each month.

The advantage to this method is that the pastor can know what to expect in order to pace disbursements. In a few cases, the interest from a modest endowment might support this fund. For example, one pastor of a historic congregation has more than $20,000 in interest income available to him each year for benevolence.

Generally, only the pastor or perhaps one other member knows about disbursements. This approach guards the needy person’s privacy while relying upon the pastor’s discretion. If the pastor has sole discretion over the use of the funds, however, it may place the pastor in a difficult situation in relation to the IRS. Such funds may be counted as personal income by the tax authorities.

A small committee, including the pastor, may be charged with discerning true needs and disbursing the funds. What is lost in privacy is made up in accountability.

Handling Funds

Policies differ among congregations. Consider, however, these basic guidelines:

– Set limits. Consider limiting the amounts given at one time, the frequency of gifts to members, and the purposes for which the gifts may be used.

Even the most affluent congregations have members who may need emergency financial assistance. The loss of a job, a medical emergency, or some other extraordinary event in a church member’s life can bring that person to the church office with the plea: “Pastor, can the church help me financially right now?”

Historical Precedents

From the earliest days, the church has aided its members in need. The Old Testament speaks of helping the poor, who are God’s chosen people. For example, they are allowed to glean the fields and vineyards (Lev. 19:9-10), and every third year they are to be given the tithe all Jews were to offer to the Lord (Deut. 14:28-29). Jesus, him self poor, told a rich young man to sell what he had and give to the poor (Matt. 19:21).

In the early church, Paul carried a money collection from Macedonia to Jerusalem for the needy in Judea. The church held property in common so that no one would be needy (Acts 2:45; 4:34). All were to be at work, however; idleness and hand outs were not to be known. Anyone who was unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thess. 3:10-13).

Modern Procedures

To aid members when a crisis hits, congregations often set up benevolence funds. The most frequent method is the pastor’s benevolence fund, directed and controlled by the pastor or other designated person. Some churches support this fund by appropriating the loose offering one Sunday each month. Other churches have a line item in the budget specifying a set amount each month. The advantage to this method is that the pastor can know what to expect in order to pace disbursements. In a few cases, the interest from a modest endowment might support this fund. For example, one pastor of a historic congregation has more than $20,000 in interest income available to him each year for benevolence.

Generally, only the pastor or perhaps one other member knows about disbursements. This approach guards the needy person’s privacy while relying upon the pastor’s discretion. If the pastor has sole discretion over the use of the funds, however, it may place the pastor in a difficult situation in relation to the IRS. Such funds maybe counted as personal income by the tax authorities.

A small committee, including the pastor, may be charged with discerning true needs and disbursing the funds. What is lost in privacy is made up in accountability.

Policies differ among congregations. Consider, however, these basic guidelines:

– Set limits. Consider limiting amounts given at one time, the frequency of gifts to members, and purposes for which the gifts may used.

Handling Funds

– Have a membership requirement.

Clearly specify the length of time one must be a member in order to receive help. Nonmembers can be helped through other means.

– Expect evidence of self-motivation. Ask for some form of service in return for funds. This also benefits the receiver in terms of self-esteem and the avoidance of depression.

– Don’t make loans to members.

Especially avoid loans with interest, due to the legal and tax problems the church could encounter. Nevertheless, a member can be told that, as soon as he or she is able, repayment would be appreciated in order to help the next person in need.

Don’t commit to indefinite sup port. Benevolence funds should meet emergency rather than chronic needs, unless specified otherwise. Those with chronic financial need may have other problems that continued benevolence could aggravate rather than alleviate.

Food Pantries and Clothes Closets

We pastors can be overwhelmed by the human need that shows up at our doors. We want to respond to be Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters, yet we are often frustrated by a lack of resources and plagued with uncertainty about the effectiveness of our help. Though our individual responses wear thin, an organized community effort can miraculously turn our five small loaves into a feast for thousands.

Should you begin a food pantry in your congregation? First do some research by asking key questions:

Are food pantries or cooperative ecumenical efforts already in place for our congregation to support? Have we asked low-income people about their needs and included them in our planning? Do our church members have a heart for this kind of ministry? Can we identify the lay leadership needed for this demanding project?

Key Considerations

If you discover your congregation is ready to meet the challenges of a pantry, here are a few hints to keep in mind as you begin:

– Responsibilities. Key volunteers should gather donations, publicize the pantry and its needs, set policy, handle legal and liability issues, supervise operations, and schedule volunteers. It’s good to include low-income people in these positions of responsibility. Without a rotating core group sharing responsibilities, chaos or burnout will soon take over. If the program grows, a paid coordinator may be come necessary.

– Donations. In agricultural communities, many farmers allow gleaners onto their fields. This practice offers great opportunities for service projects. For instance, a church could do a Bible study on Deuteronomy 24:19-22 while picking fruits and vegetables, for other sources of donations, contact farmers’ markets. Local grocery stores often give away day-old bread and dated dairy products. Ask local schools, service clubs, and businesses to sponsor food drives. One church asked its members to tithe their weight in food. They gathered two thousand pounds of food on one Sunday!

Churches can bring their resources together to form a central food bank to receive donations, coordinate volunteer efforts, and make referrals. Second Harvest (116 S. Michigan Avenue, Ste. 4, Chicago, IL 60603), a national net work of food banks, receives large donations from the food industry and distributes to smaller church pantries. A full-sized pickup truck or van is useful for gathering donations.

Distribution. Adequate distribution facilities include a clean space for sorting food and preparing bags, a waiting room, an interviewing area, storage areas, refrigeration, tables, files, desks, and chairs. In order to set up, clean up, and be kind to your volunteers, open only once a week for two hours.

You can share space in the church, but be sure to coordinate the pantry with other church programs.

Keep a record of what you give away. You may be amazed by the large number of people who come to receive food, but with organization, most churches can serve them,

Clothing distribution requires a large room dedicated to this function, with racks or shelves, hangers, a washer and dryer, and lots of volunteers giving their time to clean, repair, and distribute the clothes. You can set up a counter and take requests for sizes and types, or you can allow people into a “store” in which they can “shop” for a set number of items.

– Eligibility. Determine eligibility based on level or source of in come, identification, the reason for need, and how often people will be allowed to come for help. Devise a record keeping and interviewing process.

Make referrals to government-sponsored social agencies when appropriate. Through not only distributing food and clothes but also through relationships and counsel, your volunteers can discover the best ways to help and re store hope in Christ’s name to many in desperate situations.

Feeding Programs

Unlike the old “soup kitchens” of the past, today most feeding programs offer a ministry that provides hope as well as sustenance to guests. Some feeding programs provide as many as three meals a day. Others provide only one meal a day or a combination of breakfast, lunch and dinner scattered across a given week. A food bank or food pantry differs from a feeding program
in that the former provide packaged goods that are distributed to the community, while feeding programs prepare ready-to-eat meals at a location. Some churches combine the two, but this is usually a difficult undertaking.

Most cities or counties have a major food bank that can give considerable guidance to a church interested in establishing a food ministry. A food bank also can be a prime source of free or inexpensive food products to cook and serve in a feeding program.

Getting Started

As you consider establishing a feeding program, first assess the need by researching the number of hungry in your own congregation, neighborhood, and expanded community. Contact municipal or state departments of human services, or your local food bank. These agencies can give you valuable guidance and advice.

Questions of staffing and facilities must also be resolved. Many volunteers are needed, to keep the burden from being too great on a few, and specific leadership is essential for day-to-day operation. Volunteers can serve in various capacities: food solicitors, preparers, and servers, and clean-up crews. i.e. church kitchen and eating area must be adequate to meet the needs of food preparation and serving.

It is essential that you involve the local the board of health and zoning board to make certain your site will not violate any codes. The board of health can guide you as to the permits that may be required food service.

Meals should be as nutritional as possible but nothing is wrong with soup for dinner if it has something other than broth in it. Stews and casseroles are also easy to prepare and can be nutritious. Add bread or rolls, and maybe a cookie for dessert or a gelatin with fruit salad, and you will have a relatively inexpensive and balanced meal.

Utensils for preparation should be heavy-duty and practical. For in stance, use heavy, wooden-handled ladles for soup and hot stews. They are strong but heat-resistant and won’t burn volunteers’ hands the way metal ones might.

Working with Other Churches

One way to make a feeding pro gram easier to implement and even more effective is to share the responsibilities with several churches in your community. With this approach, dinner could be available on Tuesdays at the Baptist Church, Wednesdays at the Presbyterian Church, and so on. This not only allows for the development of a cooperative venture but also creates political leverage should your neighbors begin to object to a long line of strangers in front of your church at mealtime.

Even in communities with many hungry people, neighbors may deny the problem exists or resist accepting its reality, fearing so many poor gathered in one location at one time. In some communities this can be a serious concern.

Many who come to feeding pro grams travel for several miles, often by foot. Churches usually see guests who are not residents of their immediate neighborhood. Hunger is a great motivator, both for those in need and for those attempting to put Matthew 25 into action.

Feeding Programs

An overnight shelter for the home less is a difficult social ministry to implement. The church, in effect, becomes a 24-hour-a-day administrative operation at least on those dates the facility is open as a shelter.

Steps to Shelter

Though this ministry can be challenging and even divisive, it is also one of the most spiritually rewarding programs a church can operate. Here are the steps to get started.

– Needs assessment. Survey the church membership and neighbor hood for answers to questions like these: Are there homeless people in the immediate community? How many? Is the need for shelter year- round or only in the winter? Con tact the municipal or state department of human services for some of this information. Local advocacy groups working with the homeless can give
invaluable advice, too.

– Committee formation. Once a decision is made to proceed, establish a shelter committee, drawing mainly from church members but also including interested neighbors. Responsibility for running the shelter should not fall on just one or two persons. Once the committee is formed, however, it is important to have a primary decision maker on site each night shelter is offered. Committees are not effective at making day-to-day decisions.

– Facility preparation. Next, decide how many people can be handled and in what area of the church facilities. Will you offer shelter only to men, or will the shelter be Open to women also? What about children and families? These decisions will determine the sleeping arrangements. Since you must provide adequate washroom facilities, you’ll need to contact the appropriate city
departments for guidance about building specifications and permits before opening the shelter.

Provide washable mats or cots, each of which should be covered with a sheet before anyone sleeps on it. Towels will allow your guests to wash up before retiring each night. Sheets and towels are not a luxury but a health prerequisite to help prevent the spread of lice and disease. You may also decide to open a free used-clothes closet.

– Staff training. Many people can do volunteer work in a hospital or children’s home but are not suited for work with a street population. Ask a representative from a well-established homeless shelter to visit and talk with your commit tee about essential volunteer qualifications.

Reasonable Guidelines

Once the strategic planning complete, the tactical efforts begin. Here are some key guidelines related to running a shelter day to day.

– Post strict rules for the guests.

These rules should outline the required behavior for all shelter guests regulations might include a smoking and drug policy, the time for entry and leaving, the prohibition of violence, the limits of access to other parts of the building, and the use of washrooms and telephones. Consequences for infractions need to be communicated.

– Establish clear guidelines for the volunteers. At the least, volunteers would be required to keep confidential the home addresses of all volunteers. Other guidelines might include protocol for interaction with the guests, rules about lending money, and steps to take in an emergency.

– Don’t neglect tight security measures. Lock doors to prevent access to restricted parts of the church. In addition, have the back up security of a volunteer whose duties include keeping an eye on where people go upon entering the church.

Contact your neighbors. Inform the community of your plans. A special mailing or an open house can help assure their cooperation, or at least make you aware of any opposition in the immediate neighborhood.

Battered Women Shelters
Out of three women, the odds are that at least one will be physically abused by her spouse during her lifetime. The Bureau of Justice’s National Crime Survey verifies that wife-beating incident occurs every fifteen seconds in the United States and that 70 percent of all assault cases handled in emergency rooms involve battered women. What can be done to help alleviate this problem?

A battered women’s shelter can be one effective response. A shelter is a building designed to house a woman and her children as she flees domestic violence. A shelter is different from a safe house, which is a private residence with space for one or two a, a shelter serves as an immediate place of refuge for many women and their children. A woman who really wants to escape the cycle of abuse must have a safe place to hide while she pulls her life back together. Why can’t a woman just go to the police? For numerous reasons, police departments are still relatively ineffective. Ninety-five
percent of all police interventions conclude with the woman being sent back into the abusive relationship. Shelters are usually more helpful.

Setting Up a Shelter

There is much to do before a church can establish a shelter. Church leaders must ask some tough questions, such as: Are we the right group to do this? Do we have the support of the congregation? Are we willing to work with the community and government agencies?

This last question may evoke a strong emotional response from church leaders, but no shelter can establish itself successfully if it tries to ignore community support. For example, a shelter must secure guaranteed police protection. A shelter must also establish relationships with local women’s advocacy groups and crisis centers, which are often the first points of contact for women in domestic crises. Turning- Point, a Wisconsin-based agency, even suggests consulting the local city planner from the beginning in order to avoid sonic of the eventual red tape. At any rate, community agencies play an important role in a shelter’s existence and success.

After gaining congregational support, shelter leaders need to search for a suitable building. A church may decide to build the shelter, but existing buildings usually are cheaper and just as functional. A shelter must have a location close to community services, a fenced-in yard, separate apartments for families, and a security system to warn personnel of possible break-ins.
The shelter must also keep its location anonymous.

It is wise to contact human- resource agencies to inform them of your intentions and to garner their support. A church may want to seek the advice of other shelters in the state that have already journeyed through the jungle of government jargon and rules.

Shelters need to maintain stringent rules. Most organizations regulate their affairs with at least these minimum guidelines:

– Specific statements about length of stay (the average is 30 days).

– No contact with spouse.

– Mandatory counseling and Sup port sessions for mother and children

– No alcohol or drugs.

– No spanking (“time-out” is more effective in shelters).

– No going to work or school (since the spouse often will patrol those areas to reestablish contact and control).

The most valuable way a church can contribute to this ministry is to help each woman build a support network before she leaves the shelter. The woman’s family is the first line of support, but even secular agencies recognize the church as the best second source of support. The goal is to get the battered women involved with empathetic church volunteers who are trained to help.

Crisis Pregnancy

The vows some congregations take in infant baptism apply to crisis pregnancies. Those promises represent the commitment of the people of God to welcome children and to extend the means of grace to their parents. The church has an essential role to play not only in providing for the safety and nurture of the unborn child but also in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of
the mother and other family members (see James 2:14-17).

Church Resources

Because Christian churches reach into every corner of our nation, they can carry both the message of redemption and practical help to women and families affect ed by crisis-pregnancy decisions Though over a million Abortions now take place in the U.S. every year, not all women choose abortion, and many who do, say they would not have had an abortion if they had thought there were alternatives.

Working in cooperation with other churches and the network of secular crisis-pregnancy centers (which now number in the thousands), churches have resources to meet virtually every need that arises in a crisis pregnancy.

Women who need a temporary home, a sympathetic friend, or a wise counselor can find them in the church. Women who need a doctor, a lawyer, a social worker, or a teacher can find these in the church, as well. Transportation baby clothes and furniture, maternity clothes, help with adoption, or help finding long-term housing or a job-all these, the church can help provide.

What to Do

It is not easy to start a crisis- pregnancy ministry. Consider these suggestions as you assess your church’s potential for such a ministry:

– Don’t start without in-depth planning. Start with a well-reasoned philosophy of ministry and a clear mission statement. Then develop a written statement of purpose, expressing both the purpose of and the biblical and theological premises for the ministry. These initial statements will inform church members and the community about the reasons for your ministry and eventually will help the ministry group screen potential helpers and referral sources.

– Delegate the ministry’s management. Just as ministry was delegated in Acts 6, assign the organizing crisis pregnancy ministry to an accountable body in the church. The group may be the deacons, the women’s association, or another special committee set up just for this purpose.

– Help women feel welcomed. Many women are reluctant to make their needs known where they think they will meet with a judgmental response. This is a sensitive area that makes essential a good preaching and teaching ministry in the church for both adults and youth. Those with physical and spiritual needs must feel welcomed by the body. They also must be taught the biblical
standards of morality and be assured that the church body desires their full restoration.

– Seek broad-based involvement. The ministry should be an integral part of the church’s whole approach, both to practical ministry and to imparting the gospel message. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways: by actively involving the pastor, particularly in meeting the spiritual needs involved; by soliciting the participation of many members; and by teaching church members
the pastoral implications of this particular social concern.

– Don’t neglect the soul. The ministry should not allow the obvious physical needs of women in crisis pregnancies to obscure their spiritual needs. The group needs a strong pastoral component that is as eager for the spiritual restoration as it is for the physical. Every woman or man who needs it should have opportunity to be led gently toward repentance and restoration (2 Tim. 2:25).

Caring For Latchkey Children

Children between the ages of 6 and 12 are often left home alone while their parents are away at work or school The parents, typically isolated from the help of an extended family, earn a very moderate wage and cannot afford private day-care programs, Therefore, latchkey ministry can be an effective outreach to families outside of the church. It provides us a wonderful opportunity to develop relation ships with families as we support them in meeting a most pressing need.

Family-Support Ministry

A church launching into latch key ministry needs to understand that the most important component will be the loving attitude of staff members. This love has the power to heal sagging self-esteem, establish lasting friendships, and open the door to fellowship within the church.

Here is a six-step plan for developing this ministry:

– Form a committee. Bring together a group of interested and talented people for an initial informational meeting. The man date is to research the situation and recommend a course of action. Strive to incorporate the parents in the program, including all interested parties in some capacity in the structure of your formal committee.

– Discover the needs. Use a neighborhood survey to conduct a needs assessment among parents. Also interview teachers, pastors, apartment managers, and leaders of service organizations. Try to uncover the greatest needs.

For example, will transportation be a problem? Can families afford to pay a fee? Will the children be hungry when they arrive? How are they doing in school?

Be sure the program will respond to the felt needs of those it is designed to help. For example, a club activity meeting one afternoon a week may be a great program, but it does not meet the needs of a family with latchkey children. Many latchkey children have remedial academic needs, so you will probably want to explore an educational component, one that at least checks on homework completion and offers basic tutoring by volunteers.

– Establish goals and objectives. Here are four possible goals: to provide adult supervision for latchkey children, to increase the children’s self-esteem, to improve academic performance, and to offer Christian education.

Each goal should have detailed objectives. For example, the first goal could have the following objectives: to provide care five days a week, to do so for up to fifty children who are 6 to 12 years old, with a priority on low-income house holds in the immediate neighbor hood.

Design the program plan. Be fore making any decisions, the committee should visit the sites existing programs and do some re search into state regulations concerning children’s programs. Then, then along with developing a budget committee needs to describe in de tail your basic child-care policies the services to be provided the available transportation options the facility to
be used, and the job description and qualifications of staff members. Include a plan to evaluate the programs as well.

– Do a feasibility study. The feasibility study should raise and answer key critical questions: Is the facility available? Does it meet pro gram requirements and is zoning approved? Are staff and volunteers ready to begin? Will our financial prospects provide the income necessary to meet expenses? The answers to these and other questions will either move the plan for ward or
force the committee to re evaluate and change the plan, based on available resources.

– Implement the plan. If the program is ready for implementation a management committee needs to be commissioned and a director secured. From this point forward, the director implements the program with all the financial and personnel resources at his or her disposal.

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