When was the last time someone visited your church because of a catchy joke on the reader board out front? We can put “All are welcome” on the reader board, but alas, “all” don’t show up on a Sunday morning. So, how does a congregation that wants to serve its neighbors make those initial connection points? How does a church get to the business of loving its neighbors if they have difficulty meeting the neighbors who would welcome their care?
At Project 1.27, we talk with churches around our state about how they connect with families in their communities. And not just any families but those who are vulnerable and looking for relational and spiritual support. Funny enough, it takes more than a funny reader board in front of a building for introductions and true connections (those that stick) to happen.
We are here to help churches make those “sticky” connections a reality. We bridge churches to local families connected to child welfare. Last year we rolled out two new programs intended to introduce churches to families involved with child welfare so churches can do what churches do so well, care for those who need some extra help. We then resource those church volunteers as they grow in relationship with families.
The first is the Neighbor Program, an existing program that was folded into Project 1.27’s offerings this year. Through the Neighbor Program an individual volunteer signs up to be matched with a foster or kinship family to provide a meal once a month for six months. This is meant to be an introduction where an organic relationship of support can grow. Volunteers, or “neighbors” as we call them, have a clearly defined commitment that is easy to fit into a variety of schedules. Whether it’s a retiree who wants to help, but doesn’t know how, or a busy family that wants a way to serve together that works with their schedule, the Neighbor Program allows members of a congregation to be involved regardless of their stage of life.
The second is FamiliesCare, a family preservation program designed to keep families in tact BEFORE a child is removed by Child Protective Services. Because Project 1.27 has longstanding relationships with various counties and their child welfare offices, we are piloting a program where select counties refer families who need additional support to us, and we match these families with trained church groups who are ready to care for them. Members of a congregation go through training together and then commit to being in a supportive relationship with a family for a year. This support could include bringing meals on a regular basis, helping with driving, doing outings together, or offering occasional childcare. The main focus is relational support for a family in need that might otherwise be isolated.
These are two programs intended to help the local church fulfill her mission to care for the orphan. James 1.27 is the root of our calling at Project 1.27 and drives everything we do. Part of this includes introducing you as a church to families who are open to a relationship with YOU. We can help you get past the cheesy reader board as an outreach tool, though a good church-themed pun is never out of style.
As of now we are not operating these programs in every corner of the state, but we do have them in many. If you would like more information on how to get your church involved in one of these two programs, visit 127familiescare.org/contact. Let us know your church is interested in participating and we can see if we have families nearby ready for YOU to be knocking on THEIR doors.
By Alexandra Kuykendall, Director of New Development and the National Network