The Key to Your Ministry Dreams

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Nov 12, 2015 in Outreach

We are encouraged throughout Scripture to be grateful and to give thanks for all things, in all circumstances. Many people particularly use this time of year to reflect on the blessings of God. Perhaps you have even noticed some of your friends on social media participating in a “30-Day Thankfulness Challenge”. This is a challenge in which individuals post one thing they are thankful for, every day, throughout the month of November.

While such challenges are commendable, we must remember that thankfulness is a posture of one’s heart. It is an attribute that should lay at the center of one’s character. Today, however, I want to issue a challenge not to you as an individual, but I want to issue a challenge to your church. It is not a simple 30-day challenge for your church, but rather, it is a challenge that will push you to examine the posture of your church’s heart.


Being His hands and feet

By definition, a church is a building used for public worship. It is a place used to foster the collective worship of a group of like-minded individuals. However, you know as well as I do that the Church is more than just a building. Rather, the Church is the body of Christ. It is made up of individuals just like you and I who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus. And as followers of Jesus, we are called to be His hands and feet; we are called to continue the good work that Jesus began. Being a follower of Jesus is more about the posture of one’s heart, rather than the words from one’s lips.

Most likely you are very much aware of the needs in your community. But maybe you are not exactly sure how to address the needs, or perhaps you have been doing only what you know how to do, but desire to do more.

I want to use this post to show you that your church can serve as the hands and feet of Jesus to the community on a greater scale through a community development corporation (CDC).


Pursuing the dream in your heart

I know that many churches have a vision and passion to do something more significant in their communities than their current circumstances allow. Perhaps the biggest hinderance for them at this point is finances. The tithes and offerings alone are just enough to cover the needs of the church, and the idea of adding more potential expenses is unfathomable at this point. One of the best ways to supplement the vision you have is through a community development corporation (CDC).

CDCs are established separately from the church. They are most commonly set up as nonreligious nonprofit corporations, but they can still be established as separate religious nonprofit organizations. Establishing a CDC as a nonreligious corporation can be beneficial because it can qualify for funds from grant making organizations that may not otherwise give to a religious entity.

In essence, a CDC is a religious or nonreligious nonprofit organization, whose funds go to projects that help the community thrive and grow. The CDC has its own bylaws, its own 501(c)(3) status, and it makes its own decisions. Although the church and CDC are separate corporations, the pastor of the church may still serve as the president of the board for the CDC. Furthermore, church members can serve as volunteers for the CDC in order for the organization to operate and impact the community.

So now that we know a little bit about what a CDC is, let me share with you my story of starting a CDC, in hopes of giving you encouragement in your own journey. (You may also click here to read a blog post about the success of another CDC.)


I have been there, too

In 1999, my wife and I were traveling home to South Florida from a trip to Tampa. During our three-hour ride home, we were brainstorming outreach ideas that would help increase our church's presence in the community. We were determined to do something much bigger than ourselves. We wanted to do something that our small town had never seen before! After an hour of dreaming up big ideas, we decided that we would stage the biggest back-to-school event in the history of our small town.

Back then, the little town of Clewiston, Florida had an unemployment rate of over 25% during the summer months, and many parents struggled to get basic school supplies for their children. We decided to hold an event that would supply every single child in our part of the county with all of the necessary back-to-school materials.

We knew right away that funding was going to be our biggest challenge, and that in order to succeed, we would have to bring the entire community together. After visiting with principals from local schools, we learned that the total number of students enrolled in grades K-12 was just over 4,000.

Supplying that many students with school supplies was turning into a big challenge for a small church of 150 members. Unfortunately, our initial approach to fund raising was a failure. It turned out that letter writing and asking for donations was not going to cut it.

It was not until my wife met with an oil executive in our town that it all came together for us. She entered his office asking for financial support, and instead, she got about an hour's worth of advice . . . advice that would turn our entire outreach program on its heels.

My wife left the meeting encouraged and with a revitalized mission to make this outreach happen. Within 21 days, she received endorsements from the city council, the county board of commissioners, the county superintendent, and the city mayor. Armed with written letters of endorsement, we applied to the Wal-Mart Foundation and to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission for grant funding. We also revisited the individuals and businesses that had initially turned us down.


So . . . how did the outreach go?

My wife managed to convince the city council to let us use the city auditorium free of charge for three days. The outreach was conducted the Saturday before the first day of school. The local sheriff provided free police presence, and 12 hair stylists donated their time to provide children with free haircuts (over 800 in one day). Before the event began, there was a line of over 1,000 people outside of the building.

Hearing and eye specialists from a nearby city provided free eyesight and hearing screenings, while the health department set up shop to give free vaccines. More than 65 businesses, individuals, and government agencies sponsored the event, and all who gave at least $250.00 were allowed to set up a booth to advertise their products and services.

We had over 70 volunteers from our church, other churches, and from the local community. The mayor and most local elected officials made appearances. We managed to receive every teacher's wish list of supplies their students needed in order to get off to a good start for the school year. Every student that came received school supplies without regard to the student’s socio-economic status.

We managed to raise over $45,000.00 for this one-day event and served over 3,000 people. We even made the 11 o'clock top news story! Our church provided prayer and counseling to all who came. This event put our small church on the map!


Conclusion

My story is not a rare story. I have had the pleasure of speaking with many pastors who were at one point also where you are today. But they took a step of faith, implemented the strategies that we teach at our Ultimate Church Structure Conference, and they have seen meaningful change begin to take place in their communities through their CDCs. This can be your story, too!

If you have any questions about what your next step may be, please do not hesitate to call our office, toll free, at 877-494-4655 and ask to speak with one of our trained church planting specialists.

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Blessings,
Raul Rivera


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