Thursday, November 27, 2014

Being a Real Church

It is so wonderful how many churches provide a Thanksgiving meal somewhere, and will go to a central location to help the poor. Did you know, though, that in the early church, if a congregation didn't have an active ministry to the poor in their community, they couldn't be called a "church". They could be a meeting, or a prayer group, but they couldn't be a church unless they had a regular work in their church for the poor.
Is your church involved with the poor? Perhaps you are wondering what ways a church can get involved? It really is about looking at your church's resources and making them available.
Here are some ways that I've helped our church and other churches-- whether alone or in network-- reach out to the needy in our communities:
-Offer showers to the homeless
-Community meals inside a church
-Cook a meal to deliver to a soup kitchen
-Cook and serve a meal at a soup kitchen or senior center
-Free clothing closet
-Art studio for the poor
-Transportation for the homeless to services
-Making canned food and produce available for families
-Opening our kitchen for the homeless to cook the food they get from food stamps
-Providing day shelters so the homeless can get out of the weather and the community eye for a few hours a week.
-Offering space in our church facilities for community gardens
-Having a warehouse for items to be given to the poor and homeless
-Overnight shelters on the coldest nights of the year
-Provide haircuts at a soup kitchen
-Provide bike repair at a soup kitchen
-Allow some people who sleep in vehicles to stay in the church parking lot for a period of time.
-Arranging an agreement for one or two responsible homeless folks to stay on church property.
-Gather blankets, socks, sleeping bags, breakfast bars, fruit, individual containers of food, hygiene items, hand warmers and hand them out to the homeless
-Have a trained volunteer church worker who will recommend services to those who call in need.
I haven't done this myself, but I know churches that do:
-Provide bus tickets for the poor
-Offer motel vouchers for the homeless
-Organize lunch and hygiene items and socks in sacks to hand out to the homeless at their camps
-Provide rent or utility assistance to prevent people from becoming homeless
-Provide a social worker to obtain birth certificates and ID for those who have lost theirs
Each of these things require a bit of organization, but they are basic and often provide a huge need for the community. In Gresham, almost all services are provided by churches, doing just what was described above.

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