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Tapping into your congregation’s most valuable resource: loving others

Anne Dunnenberger

Tapping into your congregation’s most valuable resource: loving others

Anne Dunnenberger

How does your church family respond to each other during difficult times? 

  • When a young adult’s car leaves them stranded and unsure how to manage repair costs, another member calls their mechanic to ask for a favor 
  • A college-aged member is looking for an internship opportunity and others make a few phone calls to some colleagues to help him land a position.
  • An elderly widow experiences a serious illness and members rally to help her navigate appointments or provide meals. 
  • A young mother with two preschoolers is losing her home after the sudden death of her husband when another member offers their affordable, above-garage apartment. 

 

Members of your church are able to get through the crises and challenges of life because of the support network you’ve built within your congregation.

 

What if your Christian faith community could use this same support system to reach out to families facing homelessness in your community? 

At Bridge of Hope, we call this Neighboring

Neighboring is answering the call to love our neighbors and can be a source of healing and hope for families experiencing homelessness by:

  • providing tangible support, like help moving into an apartment, sharing a meal or transportation in an emergency.
  • sharing social capital to network on their behalf, like connecting to colleagues for employment, a lawyer friend to help with a custody hearing or a landlord who might offer affordable rates.
  • offering encouragement, like sending an uplifting text, celebrating a milestone or just sitting quietly and listening.

 

Bridge of Hope believes that when churches respond, homelessness ends, and hope begins. With a network of locations across the United States, Bridge of Hope’s mission to engage Christian faith communities in ending family homelessness through Neighboring relationships that demonstrate Christ’s love has never been more crucial.  

 

 

No Child Deserves to be Homeless

Today more than ever, families (most often single mothers) facing homelessness have insurmountable obstacles to stability, like wage disparity, unaffordable housing and systemic barriers. Bridge of Hope provides intensive, holistic, “next step” services within a spirit of cultural humility, to help families move from a shelter or transitional housing program to sustainable housing and financial stability. Families need job training, budgeting and resources to achieve their goals, and when also provided with Neighboring support, their lives are transformed. Neighboring expands social capital and helps families navigate future crises and remain housed.

 

Families like Kendra’s: Having endured many struggles since childhood, including losing her mother at a young age, Kendra struggled with unresolved grief, unhealthy relationships and long-term addiction. Eventually, with a daughter of her own and a fractured support system, Kendra found her recovery wavering. With nowhere to go after successfully completing a second recovery program, Kendra and her daughter ended up living in their car. With support and guidance from Bridge of Hope and her Neighboring Volunteers, Kendra’s drive kicked in and she felt empowered to reach her goals. Today Kendra and her daughter have settled into a safe routine with stable housing and full-time employment. Kendra said, “All of this is possible because of what Bridge of Hope and my Neighboring Volunteers have done for me in the past year. I am so grateful.” You can read more of Kendra’s story here. 

 

 

Churches are also facing more instability and significant changes. 

Shrinking attendance, division and a shift in member participation have left church leaders and clergy exhausted. Church leaders can sometimes feel that they are outsourcing members to meet the needs of their community in direct competition with the needs of their church.

 

How might training and guidance in relational engagement help reignite your members while keeping your church’s mission as the focus? Neighboring helps build up the church, tapping the church’s most valuable resource; love via relationships, as a tangible expression of the call to love our neighbor. 

 

 

Bridge of Hope calls churches from diverse Christian faith traditions to support families facing homelessness. It is out of this calling that we highlight the following reasons why the Church today needs to be in relationship with homeless single mothers and their children: 

 

  • God calls the Church to be in relationships: A vital relationship with God also means being in vital relationships with those around us. Throughout Scripture God identifies with the poor to the point that caring for those in need is like taking care of God (Matthew 25:31-46). These relationships challenge our judgments, assumptions, and individualistic mindset and teach us much about our relationship with God and with all God’s children.
  • God calls the Church to Bless Others: God’s directive, throughout Scripture, is that His provision is not only meant for our own sakes, but also for the sake of those around us. We are blessed to bless others (Genesis 12:1-3). As the Apostle Paul writes so clearly (II Corinthians 8-9) we are to use our riches to help others and as we do, God in turn provides for the Church’s needs. It is the mystery and joy of God’s economy.
  • God calls the Church to Vulnerability: As we experience authentic relationships with families facing homelessness, we are reminded of our own need for God and that we are not ultimately in control. Neighboring relationships with families facing homelessness keep our hearts tender, open our eyes to moments of God’s grace, and move us beyond self-centered purposes–bringing us back into a deeper relationship with Christ.
  • God calls the Church to Be a Renewed Community: When church communities commit to building neighboring relationships, they demonstrate obedience, experience transformation and connect with Jesus in new ways that revitalize their faith. When churches embrace a holistic gospel, lived out in mutuality and respect in the world, families facing homelessness can experience physical, social, emotional, and spiritual wholeness, and in turn renewal comes to the congregation. By being a community of hope, healing, and renewal now, the Church becomes a promise of God’s ultimate desire for the world.

 

 

 

Join the Neighboring Movement! 

Are you ready to ignite your congregation in this ministry of relationships? There are several ways your church, Bible study or Life Group can get involved: 

Your community may currently have Bridge of Hope services: 

  • Find your Bridge of Hope Location
  • Invite your local Bridge of Hope to an information meeting for interested members. From there you’ll need 6-10 volunteers to complete the Strangers to Neighbors® training before being matched with one family going through Bridge of Hope services.

If your community does not have Bridge of Hope services: Bridge of Hope National can help start a new Bridge of Hope program.

  • Your church or an existing nonprofit can license our model and would provide the full program services as well as recruit and train the Neighboring Volunteers. 
  • A group of Christians can form a founding board to launch a new nonprofit, with affiliation through Bridge of Hope National’s IRS 501(c)(3) status. An Affiliate operates using the Bridge of Hope model as their sole program.
  • Find out more: https://bridgeofhopeinc.org/get-involved/launch-a-local-program/

 

 

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