Archive for category Networking

Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard

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This past weekend, I experienced a rather fascinating, mostly-unplanned intersection of ministry life.  Those of us who lead know well that experts tell us we need to take a rest from our ministry work, filling our own bucket from time to time.  We also know that leadership experts extol the value of developing extracurricular bonds with our team members outside of our work.  Additionally, we all want to add value to those we serve.  My 4-day-weekend  was an intersection of all of these things.

I have written before about my annual BSL Women’s Retreat that I cherish each Autumn.  Deep, spiritual work is done while I enjoy time in far Northern Wisconsin, hours away from home.  I attended the first year with a personal friend.  Subsequent to that, I have told others about this phenomenal getaway.  As a result, some mothers and volunteers with whom I work have begun attending.

It took my breath away this year to see what God had orchestrated.  I try to respect people with the confidentiality they deserve, so not all of these attendees were aware of their connection to our ministry.  Not including myself, 14% of those in attendance at this year’s retreat were either parents of children with special needs, benefactors, or volunteers involved with our organization.  To have that common thread running through the heart of these women, growing together, both those who are typically served alongside those who typically serve, gave an incredibly beautiful picture of the Body of Christ.

The triple bond that developed began in the usual way.  We worked hard together.  Whether it was co-laboring as parents or building our ministry through service, we grew in our relationship with one another as we worked hard.  At retreat, we got extra opportunities to play hard together.  Boating, horseback riding, hiking, skeet shooting, and crafting offered the type of bonding that makes memories.  New friendships developed and grew.  But the game-changer with a retreat like this was the opportunity to pray together, again and again.  Even in the car, some of us had occasion to pray together.  Coming together to speak to our Mighty Father, sharing concerns, and an earnest desire to grow in our walk enriched our prayer life.

An experience of this type, apart from our usual special needs ministry work, humanizes each of us.  Leaders, participants and volunteers become fellow sojourners and friends.  Rather than seeing people as an event or means to get much-needed help, we are able to come together as family members in Christ.  This only enriches and deepens the commitment involved with our ministry work.

I pray that each of you get the opportunity to attend such an extracurricular event with your adherents, volunteers and benefactors.

QUESTION:  What sorts of ways do you connect with your team members, participants and donors outside of your typical ministry work?

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How Do You Deal With Viral Stories?

They seem to be out there with increasing frequency.  I have one author friend, the sibling of an adult with challenges, who calls such features “Super Crip” stories.  I just about choked when I heard her say it to me on the phone, but she was right.  In our human desire to root for the underdog and see them win, we seem to encounter more videos of individuals with special needs in heroic situations.  It may have started  with the likes of Dick Hoyt:

Since such stories started being shared by so many on the web, hometown victories like this have been shown time and time again:

And most recently, as reality TV takes evening viewing by a storm, we see viral stories like this:

While inspiration has value, I wonder, how many of these stories do you share?  Do you think they are a good representation on the population we serve?  What do you think these types of stories do as far as the expectations of the “typical” world go?  I would LOVE to hear your feedback!

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For Those Who Are Serious About Special Needs Ministry

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I first introduced readers to the Special Needs and Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum in November of 2012.  At that time, I interviewed the group’s creator, Kelli Ra Anderson.  She shared her motivation behind establishing this forum, “to sharpen one another just as we might at a conference or seminar when we have those opportunities to learn from those who’ve ‘been there, done that.’” .

Since that time, I would have to say that Kelli’s vision for mutual sharing and development has been more than fulfilled.  Daily, the almost 300 nationwide members of this closed Facebook group share articles, discuss leadership difficulties, and spur one another on to greatness.  There is debate, encouragement, resource-sharing and networking taking place that can’t be consistently found anywhere else.

I would urge you, if you are a regular reader of this blog, and you are serious about special needs ministry, then please submit a request on Facebook to join this group.  It will make you a better leader and connect you to those on the cutting edge of this area of service.

Thank you, Kelli, for bring us together to dialogue, “As iron sharpens iron”.

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TOOLS YOU CAN USE: 6 Musts to Help Your Non-Profit Budget

Without surveying the readers of this blog, I am quite certain we could all come to an agreement that ministering to those with special needs would be far more enjoyable if it weren’t for fund-raising.  Trying to do our worthy work while creating an emotional appeal for funding that work can be so maddening.  However, if you are not already aware of these, here are some tools that can be of tremendous help in your work:

1. GuideStar

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The gold standard of all non-profit databases is at http://www.guidestar.org/  If you do not at least have a basic listing with GuideStar, you cannot receive certain grants or plug into other networks.  Filling out your corporate summary on this website will make your information available to any would-be donors.  I would even go so far as to say your listing with GuideStar is critical in lending credibility to your ministry and in raising any serious funds.

2.  GREAT NON-PROFITS

Great Non-ProfsAnother terrific place to build a profile for your organization or ministry is at http://greatnonprofits.org/  This site interfaces with GuideStar, and it helps would-be benefactors take a peek at your work.  On this site you can post your mission statement, have participants, volunteers, and benefactors all write recommendations on your organization, post photos and videos of your work, and describe what a donation of money or time will accomplish for your non-profit.

3.  Philanthropy News Digest

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A great source of news on grants being awarded and weekly updates on RFPs (requests for proposals), http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/ should be a part of your regular reading.  This will open your eyes to what grantors are looking for both within your area of service and beyond.

4.  Fundsnet Servicesfundsnet_services_logo

If you want the easiest way to locate grant opportunities in a given area of service or by geographical location, http://www.fundsnetservices.com/ is a must for you.  I find this site to be the most user-friendly in trying to locate available grants when I am the one doing the digging.

5.  The Non-Profit Times

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NPT is a versatile tool on so many different levels.  Not only will it make you aware of available grants, their newsletter offers tips on leadership, volunteer management, donor development, and so much more.  Subscribing to the http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/ newsletter is also free.

6.  Network for Good

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This last resource is one of my favorites.  I came to be acquainted with http://www1.networkforgood.org/ because they process the donations made on our Causes page through Facebook.  They offer so much in the way of keeping charities on the cutting edge of fundraising and non-profit management.  I find them to be extremely knowledgeable in all areas of social media and innovative tools.

Be aware that each of these resources offers a treasure trove of information, so you will have to narrow where to focus or that is all you will find yourself doing.  Many of them offer extremely valuable free webinars, convenient for participation right from your desktop.

I pray this will be useful and fruitful information for you.  I certainly wish I would have had a list like this when I got started doing the Lord’s work!  God forgot to tell me how integral this fundraising piece would be in raising a budget to carry out His work.  Nevertheless, He has brought these resources into my path in His perfect timing, and I continue to rely on them to this day.

What are your favorite non-profit budget resources?  We would love to hear!

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Our Biggest Struggles

ID-10032808Leadership is not for the faint of heart.  Ministry makes the challenges of leadership that much more complex.  Combining our own spiritual state with trying to motivate and direct a group of individuals, all with different attitudes, opinions and desires can really put us to the test.  I will always remember the words of an experienced friend when I answered the Lord’s call to lead a ministry.  She had a dynamic history, not only as a pastor’s wife, but also in women’s ministry.  As we strolled around a placid, glistening lake she warned, “Leading a ministry is a double-edged sword.  On one side of the blade, you wield the incredible power of God.  And the other side will pierce your own heart.”  If you have served for any length of time, like me, you may find those words to be true.

For the past week, I have watched a fruitful and lively conversation between colleagues at the Special Needs & Disabilities Ministry Leaders Forum on Facebook.  The conversation began with the terrific question from Laura Lee Wright, “So what are the biggest challenges facing us as disability leaders today?”.  The flood of answers have ranged from difficulty with volunteers, to awakening churches to acknowledge the need for disability ministry, to raising up the next generation of leaders.  As leaders have shared their greatest struggles, debate has ensued as to what our primary role as leaders should be.  Should it be inclusion?  Should it be an extension of special education?  Should it be showing others that those with intellectual challenges have as much need for salvation as anyone else?  It has been a worthwhile discussion.

At the risk of irritating those I hold in high esteem, the answer to these deep questions and greatest struggles are likely found in Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:36-39, “’Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mindThis is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NET)  In other words, rather than “doing” ministry, the ministry occurs as an outpouring of our daily living.  It’s that easy and that hard.

We have long heard the expression in real estate that the key to success is “location, location, location.”  These days in leadership circles, it seems the theme from every remarkable authority on the topic points to “relationship, relationship, relationship.”  The biggest struggles facing us as leaders in the special needs arena may be best overcome by heeding those words.  In the context of Matthew 22:36-39, it’s relationship with the Lord first, then relationship with every type of person the Lord puts in our path.  God pours into us, and we pour into others.  By being in relationship with those who have medical, emotional or cognitive challenges as well as having relationship with those who do not, we are able to be “bridge builders”.  It’s the old 1 Corinthians 11:1 mandate, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”  (NIV)  When others see us hanging around with people they may be afraid of, they see that it might be okay for them to hang around with them too.  As we serve those with disabilities publicly, we bear witness to the value of all individuals and their need to know Christ.  As we build friendships outside of that service, we are able to do what Tony Morgan terms “shoulder tapping” or inviting others to serve along with us.

My encouragement to my fellow servants would be that we all develop a consistency in practicing these simple-yet-difficult relational rhythms to achieve our ultimate goal.  And isn’t that ultimate goal that all individuals, regardless of ability level or trauma faced, be presented with the Gospel of hope and opportunity to grow in relationship with the One True King?

What are YOUR thoughts?  We would love to hear!

Image courtesy of:  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Shut Out By The Secular World

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A number of years ago the general announcement was issued for an expo serving patients and families, also inviting exhibitors to display at the event.  The demographics matched with those we aim to serve, so we proceeded to reserve our booth space.  Much to my dismay, the host of the event refused our reservation stating that they wanted no affiliation with any religious organization.  Known for our works of compassion with hurting parents, my outraged pastor even volunteered to step up and plead our case with the host.  I refused his offer, having no desire to go where we were not welcome.

While it is the prerogative of any event sponsor to set guidelines on who they will or will not allow to participate, it is counterproductive when faith based organizations are shut out by the secular world.  Of far more benefit to those with disabilities are bridges built in cooperation between secular and religious groups.  Government organizations surely don’t have all of the resources they need.  Matters of faith are also of huge concern to families with a loved one who has a special need.  So, how do we overcome such obstacles?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Build relationships.  We can never hear this principle enough.  People like to work with others they know.  If you build friendships and find personal common ground with those in secular work, those relationships can blossom into more.
  • Be willing to cross promote.  Trust is built and good will is shown when we are open to sharing the work of secular organizations with those we serve.  Many non-religious organizations need avenues to reach more people.  If we are willing to open one of those avenues, reciprocity is more likely.
  • Live your mission.  Rational or not, lay service providers can have tremendous fear that faith based  providers will pressure and street evangelize at events.  If those same providers see your organization merely loving people with excellence, just like Jesus did, those fears will be assuaged.
  • Invite secular organizations to speak or share with your members.  If you need a guest speaker or writer, a great way to connect can be to engage these government or non-religious groups.  Most won’t think twice about sharing their expertise or services with your members.
  • Network.  Add value to those who shut you out by introducing them to new connections.  When you are willing to make introductions, you become a valuable connection in your own right.
  • Persevere.  Even if you continue to be excluded, remaining warm and open can pay off in the long run.  And if you continue to be shut out, at least you know that you are doing what is upright in the sight of the Lord.

Has your disability ministry been shut out by the secular world?  If so, how did you deal with it?  We would love to hear about it.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

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When You Want to Throw In The Towel

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“…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” ~ Hebrews 12:1, NASB

I have a photographer friend who is always the first to respond when he sees my perennial Facebook status posting, “I quit!”

“You can’t,” he reminds me in private messages, “People need you.”

Typically, he cajoles me out of my mood, also comforting and offering his support in Christian brotherhood when I struggle.  This friend knows the personal life I lead.  He has also seen many aspects of the ugly underbelly of ministry.  But more than that, he has seen the prevailing power of God.  He knows the Lord has a hold on me that I can’t walk away from.  Besides being a cherished family friend, I think this is why he is so invested in encouraging me when my resolve is fading.

Everyone in ministry needs a friend like this.  Frequently and more commonly, I think we need to provide this boost to one another as colleagues in ministry.  Each of us has times where we want to call it quits.  Spurring one another on to the “finish line” is definitely an essential aid to keep us hanging on.

Unfortunately, the Lord doesn’t always provide us with tangible evidence of our forward movement in His work.  Perhaps it is to train us to walk by faith and not by sight.  Regardless, working in the Lord’s service can be incredibly wearying and discouraging.  Those we serve can be unreasonably demanding.  Our training in given areas may have fallen short in preparing us to meet the challenges we face in special needs ministry.  And with so much need and too few serving in this type of work, it can drag a person down in a hurry.  This doesn’t even take into account those who fail to catch the vision of disability ministry and the lack of funds to support the work.

Because of all these serious leadership challenges in this unique field of ministry, it is more important than ever that we invest in relationships with one another in the community.  Interfacing as leaders, having good laughs together about the type of work we do, and encouraging one another to stick to this very worthy work is a must.  Mutual support in life is always important, but in special needs ministry, it is critical.

Who are you supporting with mutuality?  Do you find yourself feeling like you’re working in a ministry vacuum and need to connect to others?  Let us know!  Continue to spur one another on to greatness.  This is also an essential part of your call to leadership.

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