We are praying for you, your families and your churches during this crisis!
Many churches are still navigating service cancellations due to government restrictions, discipleship efforts due to quarantine and ministry to vulnerable members in the midst of a pandemic. And, I agree that those efforts should be first priority (Matthew 28:16-20; Galatians 6:10).
However, if this crisis stretches into the next few weeks and even months (I pray that does not happen), the economic fallout could and probably will be severe. And, the church should be prepared to meet community as well as church needs (Matthew 5:16). Over the last few days, I have spoken to or heard from government officials, church leaders and other community organizations about community needs and how the church can meet them; and I have compiled a list from those interactions. Here are seven ways your church can serve your community during this time:
Contact, Pray for and Assist Local Officials. Reach out to your mayor, local health officials and school officials to (1) tell them you are praying for them and (2) ask them how you can help. These officials may tell you that all needs are currently being met. But, if this crisis drags on, the need will intensify and your help will be needed.
Call People and Deliver Care Kits. In a recent podcast episode, Jay Height from the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis shared with me that some elderly individuals go months without human interaction. This is a tragedy at any point, but it is especially problematic now. Why not put a team together to call shut-ins, other church members and even names in the phone book to offer prayer and help? When you identify a need (especially for an elderly individual), offer to deliver food or other essential items while observing CDC procedures.
Assist Public Schools. Last week, a legislator shared with me that 30% of the students in one of the school districts in his area are on the free and reduced lunch program. In other words, these students rely on their school for daily nutrition. Public schools are scrambling to find ways to safely continue these food services, so ask if your church can assist in some way.
Offer Space. Many churches lack other resources, but space is not one of them. I heard from one pastor that is assisting a local school by allowing the school to use the church parking lot to distribute food to students. And, this pastor also offered space for an emergency medical facility if the local hospital is overwhelmed.
ProvideChild Care. As I am sure you are well aware, schools are closed; and, that means that many parents are scrambling to figure out child care. This is, of course, especially important for workers in the health, safety, and essential service fields during this pandemic. Some churches with existing preschools are expanding their services to meet these needs and others are exploring the launch of such a ministry (you will, of course, need to work with local officials to comply with regulations). By the way, Indiana is already facing a child care shortage; so, perhaps this could be a long-term rather than a short-term strategy for meeting community needs.
Donate Funds or Food to a Food Bank, The Salvation Army or a similar organization. Because kids are out of school and because many workers in the food service, travel and hospitality industries are either being laid off or having their hours cut, food and essentials such as toilet paper are in high demand. So, organize a fundraiser or food drive for a local food bank or similar organization. Make sure you communicate with the food bank or ministry beforehand to ensure compliance with CDC recommendations and to determine which items are most needed.
Provide Resources to Those Experiencing Job Loss or Reduced Hours. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has announced measures to assist individuals that have been laid off or have had their hours cut due to the pandemic. Point individuals to the designated website so they can sign up for these resources. Also, some churches are specifically raising funds for and distributing assistance to individuals in hard-hit industries.
From the early church to the Ebola outbreak, the church has responded to plague and disease with love, hope and help. Now, it’s our turn.
I hope these ideas help you and your church as you serve your community!
Also, we are in contact with government officials (including the governor’s office) and other ministries, and are working with them to coordinate response efforts. We would love to know what you and your church are doing so we can compare and contrast best practices and let government officials know about the church’s efforts to combat this pandemic and serve people in need.
Will you take a moment and fill out this brief survey so we know how you are serving your community and how we can best coordinate with government officials and equip the church in Indiana?
I’ll close with this quote by George Whitefield, which has been on mind lately, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” Let’s gobe the church!
The first things you notice when you get to Narrow Gate Ranch are horses. The large barn is surrounded by gently rolling acres. The horses graze in small groups, some galloping a few yards as the mood takes them, most still and watchful. It’s not far from downtown Kokomo, but the flowing land and calm presence of the horses leaves you feeling far from anything you’d find in the city. It’s a peaceful scene, and one that Susan Zody appreciates.
For the past few years, Susan has been running the Narrow Gate Horse Ranch. Susan wasn’t familiar with horses when she started on this journey. She had been searching for a way to get the kids to continue coming and engaging with a youth outreach program where she volunteered, and remembered an article she’d read about a therapy horse ranch. After raising the funds through donations and researching therapy ranches, Susan was able to take a group to a nearby facility. The funds continued to roll in, and Susan started seeing the impact the visits were making on some of the kids in the program. Grades improved. Behavior improved. The kids started making better decisions. She was impressed, and committed to continue providing this to the children.
“They come here really, to build a relationship with a horse,” says Susan about the draw for the youth she works with at the ranch. These young people have sometimes suffered abuse and neglect, and an adult seeking to mentor these individuals will often face an uphill battle. But a horse, patient and calm and not demanding, can bridge that divide.
As donations continued to come in, Susan had to ask herself if there was more that she could do. Was it just the small group of children that she currently worked with that were meant to benefit? Could something else be done? It was a crossroads for Susan. She knew the need was greater than what could be met by visiting a horse ranch an hour way. She could see the improvements, but her kids, and the kids she knew needed connection in the community, would benefit from a slightly different approach. One that focused on building relationships and making better decisions, and ultimately, one that had its foundation in faith.
This was where Susan found herself in 2016 when she invited a group of people from the community to a discussion. Would the community support an organization like what she envisioned? Were the resources there to make it successful? Her plans were met with enthusiasm and support, and a board was formed. In a short three years, Narrow Gate Horse Ranch has been established and has weekly classes.
Narrow Gate’s target audience is at-risk youth in the community. In Howard County, Indiana alone, over 4,000 children live at or below the poverty level. At the Ranch, these children are able to grow their confidence, leadership skills, and communication skills.
“I want these kids to gain some confidence and to know that if they do things correctly, there will be a good ending.”
When we visited Susan at the ranch, we also met Scott MacDonald, the equine specialist at the Ranch, and Kelsey and Autumn, two sisters who volunteer. Together, Susan and Scott shared stories that more often than not brought tears to the eyes of both speaker and listeners. The horses at Narrow Gate have faced their own challenges, much like the youth that works with them. The kids relate to the horses. They see their own struggles, and they work together to overcome challenges. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved, and one the team at Narrow Gate never tires of.
It was an honor to meet with Susan and Scott at Narrow Gate Horse Ranch, to be introduced to the horses, and to meet some of the youth benefitting from this wonderful operation.
We are seeking talented writers to help tell the story of Bible translation to churches around the world. The work that God is doing, and the role that the local church can serve in that work, is a powerful message that we need to share.
We are turning the testimonies of hearts changed by God’s Word and accounts of how churches are leading the process of Bible translation for their communities into stories that are easy to translate and understand. Stories are a powerful way to engage new national Bible translators. These stories will be broadcast to remote people groups and those living in persecuted areas. Your stories can help reach people who have never heard God’s Word in their own language!
If you have a professional writing background and are willing to contribute a few hours per week, then we need your help. Experience with or knowledge of our programs is a plus. If you do not have previous Wycliffe Associates experience, we will provide training.
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about this storytelling opportunity, please see the Wycliffe website for more information, email us, or call Jennifer Cunneen toll-free at 1-800-THE WORD (800-843-9673). Jennifer will provide you with more details about this project. See the
Thank you for praying and sharing this opportunity within your circles of influence to help us involve more people in Bible translation.
Share God’s good news! Each year the pregnancy resource center Living Alternatives and the prolife outreach group Howard County Right to Life team up to serve at the Howard County 4H Fair. This is a fun way to have great conversations! Volunteers staff a table set up with prolife information, such as pictures of fetal development and information about the resources Living Alternatives provides to families.
Two-hour time slots are open every night of the fair from 5-9PM, Monday through Saturday, July 11-16. Want to get involved? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (765) 438-1228!
When disaster strikes, Eight Days of Hope is there, through an outreach called Hope Reigns. This ministry provides rapid-response volunteer teams to disaster-stricken areas. Currently, they’re helping flood victims in South Carolina pick up the pieces of their lives.
“Our hope and goal is that people see Jesus Christ in us,” says Steve Tybor, the cofounder of Eight Days of Hope/Hope Reigns.
Eight Days of Hope began their efforts in South Carolina on October 10th and will serve there for several weeks. If you’d like to volunteer, email email@example.com or call (256) 503-1024.
One team from Kokomo will be serving from Sunday, October 18th through Monday, October 26th. If you would like more information about that team, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (765) 438-1228.
For more information about Eight Days of Hope and Hope Reigns, watch this video overview and visit their website.
Detailed Volunteer Information
“I truly believe God is opening doors for us to walk through, but we have to walk through them.”
Hope Reigns will be headquartered and staying at:
Crossroads World Outreach Center
2606 Emanuel Church Rd.
West Columbia, SC 29170
When you arrive at our headquarters, go to our registration area and fill out a Volunteer Release Form. A member of the admin team will show you around the facilities, answer your questions, and if you arrive early enough, send you to a job site.
ALL volunteers must be at least 18 years old, and NO pets are allowed.
ALL volunteers using chainsaws MUST be certified by Hope Reigns (we try to give volunteers an opportunity to be certified at each event).
What to expect:
Our typical serve day begins with lights on at 6 am, breakfast at 6:30 followed by a devotional. After the devotional, we go over any daily announcements/instructions, organize into teams, and depart for the job sites. We arrive on the job sites around 8 am and lunch is served onsite between 11 am and 1 pm. We leave the job site around 4 or 5 pm and have dinner around 6 pm followed by an evening devotional around 7 pm. Following the devotional, there is free time for showers, fellowship, etc. until lights out at 10 pm. (On Sunday’s, we usually worship with the host church and begin our serve day around 1 pm.)
You will be assigned to a crew each morning. Each crew is led by a job leader, who is responsible for overseeing the work and the crew. Job leaders are identifiable by their yellow vests (crew members wear orange vests). Your job leaders were chosen through much prayer so please respect them and the decisions they make.
Free lodging at the church (women and men sleep in separate areas)
Tools and all necessary equipment. But our biggest task will be completing mud outs and if you have a power washer, electric water pump, shop vac, wheel barrow, or brooms, please bring them
Devotions from God’s word and great fellowship!
You will need to bring:
A humble servant’s heart
A sleeping bag, cot, or air mattress and blankets
Towels, soap, and shampoo
Work clothes, boots, and gloves
Bug spray and sun block
If you have any questions, email email@example.com or call (256) 503-1024. To volunteer and help us with our planning, please email your arrival and departure dates. Thank you for your interest in volunteering to serve God’s people and we look forward to serving with you!