Saturday, November 4, 2017

Reaching the Forgotten

I wrote last week about a new project God seems to be pushing me into. I thought this week I'd post the rough development plan I've started developing this week. I like this project because it allows individuals to develop their own personal ministry performing a valuable service for the church - finding lost church members and shut-ins and bringing them home to church.  Here's the layout of the project. If you'd like to help, check out our donation page at Fundly. We can use startup seed money to help us get the paperwork filed.


Going Home Ministries – Transportation for Shut-ins & Kids

Demographics
  • 89% of Americans say they believe in God
  • 51% of Americans say they attend church
  • 25% more Americans have become more active in religious services recently
  • Pew survey cites business, inconvenience, habit, work and other reasons for lack of church attendance.
  • Pew didn't ask whether or not transportation to church was an issue
  • A big factor for elderly church members is inability to get to church. As many as 1 in 4 seniors are no longer able to drive.
Background:

Back in the 70s my church got itself a new pastor. Ron Halvorsen, a former Brooklyn gang-banger, was an unlikely choice for pastor of a large university Texas Adventist church. To say he shook up the church is an understatement. One of the things he did that upset the old guard of the church was to buy and borrow 9 old school buses. Pastor Ron discovered we had a huge shut-in population in the surrounding county. He set up a volunteer phone line to find where all these folks lived, they developed bus routes and began picking up seniors who couldn't drive themselves to church. Then they discovered that they had lots of parents who wanted their kids to go to church services so we started picking those kids up. One of the things that happened was that we filled buses with children and seniors who thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

Within a few months we had 3000 people coming to church services (in a town of 2500) and had to divide the services into two separate services and were looking at adding a third. We set up a youth service on Wednesday night opposite prayer meeting and pretty soon we had 900 people coming to prayer meeting (up from 46 people just a few months earlier. We discovered that a huge number of those new members simply had transportation problems. Even with the kids, the bus service allowed parents to send their kids off to prayer meeting and gave them a few precious moments to themselves before they drove to prayer meeting where they could enjoy the services in peace and meet their kids back at home. It's little wonder prayer meeting became so popular.

In doing transportation advocacy in East Texas we discovered that one of the reasons our rural transit system didn't run on Sunday was that they didn't think anyone wanted to go anywhere on Sunday and certainly not to church. I did a transportation survey in the region and “ride to church” was just behind “ride to the doctor”, which is #1, as a reason that people without transportation needed a ride.

We'd like to see churches filled up again. That's what this initiative is about. We are looking to create a transportation resource to see that no one who wants to go to church has to miss services because they can't get there. Churches that have tried bus ministries have found that the need is more vast than they had any idea. With the massive baby boomer generation retiring and dealing with the effects of aging, huge numbers of our church members are finding themselves unable to get to church in any kind of regular way.

We can do bus ministries individually, but it makes more sense for us put our resource together and help each other. If church buses and individual volunteers can find a way to coordinate their efforts we should be able to get people without transportation to church and other faith-based activities. We believe that technology can help make church bus and transportation ministries more effective. Back home in Texas we did the same thing with social services for churches by creating a church social services agency that shared resources and was supported by most of the local churches. It helped us avoid duplication of services and helped us be more effective at providing help to people who needed it. It is our intent to do the same thing for transportation needs like going to church, prayer meeting, church food banks and other faith-based activities not covered by local charities and government services.

The Parable of the Wedding Guests tells of a king who invited guests to a wedding. After many refused to come, the king takes action to fill the wedding hall.

So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
(Matthew 22: 7-10)

There is a time to gather God’s children together. It seems to me that it’s about time we do a better job of doing that given the state of the world and the shortness of time.

Mission Statement

Our Mission is to build a network of transportation resources to transportation-challenged believers and searchers to church and other faith-based activities.

Vision Statement

Our Vision is of a flexible, expanding network of volunteers providing transportation for seniors, shut-ins, children and low income families to faith-based and church-sponsored activities.

Philosophy

We believe that as Christians we should embrace all Christians and seekers after truth and that we should work together across denominational lines to get those in need to their church homes. We are the servants of the King, sent out into the villages and the byways to gather all who may wish to come into the wedding feast. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, neither black nor white, nor Baptist nor Catholic, nor Adventist nor Lutheran, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Strategy:

Step 1 – Setup Nonprofit Organization to manage and coordinate the organization
Step 2 – Develop website for signing up volunteers, drivers and riders with expandability potential for duplicating in other cities
Step 3 – Develop relationships with churches, volunteers and Christians with transportation issues and create mechanisms for connecting
Step 4 – Pilot the program for one year.
Step 5 – Expand to other communities

Tentative Startup Budget:
  1. Website design and hosting............................................................$ 5,000.00
  2. Legal costs & accounting...............................................................$ 2,000.00
  3. Staffing costs (part time project director – 12 months).................$12,000.00
  4. Grant writing costs.........................................................................$ 1,000.00
Total.........................................................................................................$20,000.00

Timeline

Milestone 1: First Month
  1. Setup nonprofit corporation and recruit board of directors
  2. Create request for proposal for website design
  3. Choose web designer and map the site
  4. Setup accounting and bank accounts
  5. Research potential grant funding
Milestone 2: Second Month
  1. First board meeting
  2. Map website and begin site design and coding
  3. Visit local churches for help organizing inter-denominational transportation resources
  4. Create policies and procedures manual for organization
  5. Create methodology for expanding into new cities/counties
  6. Begin organizing technical advisory group
Milestone 3: Third Month
  1. Begin field testing website
  2. Continue recruiting churches as supporters for the project
  3. Develop advertising/marketing strategy for recruiting riders and volunteers
  4. Continue grant writing & extended budget development
  5. Meeting with advisory group
Milestone 4: Fourth Month
  1. Complete Policies and Procedures
  2. Complete field testing website and begin data collection
  3. Deploy advertising and marketing
  4. Launch website
  5. Identify transportation resources
  6. Continue grant writing & budget development
Milestone 5: Fifth Month
  1. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  2. Prepare to launch initial services
  3. Meet with advisory group/revise development plan
  4. Continue data collection/promote services
  5. Second quarterly board meeting
Milestone 6: Sixth Month
  1. Ramp up to full operations
  2. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue working out the website bugs
  5. Meet with advisory group to evaluate progress
Milestone 7: Seventh Month
  1. Third quarterly board meeting
  2. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  5. Expand resources and area served
Milestone 8: Eighth month
  1. Meet with advisory group to evaluate progress
  2. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  5. Expand resources and area served
Milestone 9: Ninth Month
  1. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  2. Continue marketing/grant development
  3. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  4. Expand resources and areas served
  5. Implement grant-funded programs
Notes:

When I was back in Texas, I did transportation advocacy for a time. One in five East Texans don't have reliable access to transportation. I helped lead an effort to improve funding for our region's rural transit system. I was appointed to the Department of Transportation's Public Transportation Advisory Committee by the Governor that rewrote the funding formula. I testified before the legislature's transportation committee and led a bipartisan coalition to make the funding formula for transit fair.

When my wife and I moved to the Pacific Northwest, we inadvertently lost our own transportation. Suddenly, instead of being advocates for seniors, low income families and people with disabilities who need transportation, my wife and I became the people who use public transportation. I learned all sorts of thing about public transit from the consumer side. With no transportation of your own to fall back on, you learn fast.
I used to hear folks, especially seniors, at our public comment meetings, complain because they could go everywhere, to doctors, to appointments with social services, and to shopping and even recreation, but there was nothing that runs to church services, which for many had been the most important thing in their lives. The transit services were either too expensive or not running during these times. Many providers claimed there was just no need for it.

After losing our own transportation, my wife and I soon found ourselves unable to attend church. The bus routes don't serve the areas around most churches as they tend to be built on less commercial property and off the main bus lines. Paratransit services either don't run to our churches or simply shut down at church times. As the baby boomer population retires, it's only going to become more of a challenge for churches to retain their older members as they lose our ability to drive or even to afford to drive.

And boomers have more savings, they bring their grandkids with them, they nag their children about coming to church. Because we are bleeding members from our congregations, in part, because of lack of a car, busy schedules, illness and loss of driving skills.

© 2017 by Tom King

No comments:

Post a Comment