Column for July, 2017
A couple of months ago, Katrina Bostick stopped by my office. Katrina is the Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Savannah. As I hope most of us know, Family Promise (formerly called Interfaith Hospitality Network) is an organization which helps homeless families with temporary shelter and support to find long-term stability. We are a founding congregation with Family Promise, playing an important part in the organization for almost 20 years. As a part of our support, about three times each year, we host up to 3 families for a week in our Education Building, providing them with a meal each night and a safe and comfortable place to stay as they search for permanent housing.
Katrina brought with her a wonderful gift for our congregation. All non-profit organizations have to keep detailed statistics to show that they really make an impact on the lives of the people they serve and on the whole community. Donors, especially organizations which give grants, insist that every agency has to prove their worth using those numbers. Because churches are key to much of the services they provide, Family Promise had broken their numbers down to show the impact each congregation has on our community through our work with Family Promise.
Did you know that in 2016 alone, our congregation provided:
- 3 weeks of shelter for families (or 21 “bed nights”)
- 294 volunteers
- 1281 volunteer hours
- 796 meals
- $17,353 in services
Surely some among you will ask how they reached that total value. They assume that one “bed night” is $35, one “meal day” is $17, and a volunteer’s time is worth about $10 per hour.
Just imagine that: our congregation made a total contribution to Family Promise of over $17,000 last year. And that is just one program we do as a congregation. Imagine putting a value on our total contribution to our community: our service at Inner City Night Shelter, our Tutoring Program, our Scouting programs, and more. And what if we add to that the value we contribute to groups which meet in our building and don’t have any money to pay us, such as the Neighborhood Association, scouting groups, various civic groups, and others. Our contribution to our community is astounding!
We do good, faithful work here. Sometimes the work is frustrating. Sometimes it is exhausting. Usually it does not reap easy harvests. After the work is done, we still look around to see fewer people in worship each Sunday than there used to be, smaller Sunday School classes and groups, and a precarious bottom line on our financial statements.
Most of those things are related to factors which are out of our control. But the factors which we control, like how we use our time, our effort, our buildings, and our money, show our ongoing faithfulness. In addition to the abundant and eternal value of simply worshipping our God, we continue to seek to follow Christ’s commands. We continue to love our neighbors, to welcome strangers, to share our bread and open our homes to the poor, and to build the kingdom of heaven so people can experience the peace and the joy which God intends for them, even in hard times. That work has both spiritual and material value.
I am grateful that Katrina gave us this little glimpse of the numbers, and I pray that we will continue to seek ways to have an impact on the lives of our neighbors and our community!