Faith in Action

Faith in Action

The Pan-Methodist Commission recognizes how difficult it is for congregations to develop specific ideas about how to care for children in poverty. However, such involvement often starts with an individual who is committed to a particular cause. When one person unites with others, they can begin ministries that powerfully impact the lives of children. The following pages contain the Campaign for Children in Poverty‟s “Faith in Action” possibilities. These action possibilities are to assist churches in exploring how they can be responsive to children in need. Resources are offered for churches to begin to care and nurture children. Every church and every seminary can do something to nurture and to advocate on behalf of children at risk to poverty.

 

Goals

1. To renew and empower the efforts of Methodist churches, agencies, and seminaries already serving children and youth at risk to poverty.
2. To challenge and enable all Methodist churches and seminaries to establish ministries to children and youth at risk to poverty.

 

I. Educate the Congregation about the Needs of Children and the Poor

Goal: To sensitize Methodist congregations to circumstances faced by children and by poor families in order that churches might respond with acts of compassion and justice.

Assess the need of children in your community.

- Form a committee or task force.
- Speak with children, parents, school personnel, other churches, and organizations devoted to children.
- Report findings to the congregation.

Celebrate Annual Children’s Sabbath.

- Designate a Sunday in October, or another Sunday during the year, as Children‟s Sabbath.
- Order lesson plans and manuals for Children‟s Sabbath from the Children‟s Defense Fund: http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-advocacy-resources-center/faith-based-programs/national-observance-of-childrens-sabbaths-celebration/.
- Use the materials, not only in worship on the designated Sunday, but in adult and children‟s school and weekday programs.

Consider the needs of all children:

- Ensure that your faith community is welcoming to children with disabilities. For information visit The Interfaith Disability Connection http://www.interfaithdisability.org/congregational_make_your_service_welcoming.php.
- Implement support groups for children with disabilities or mental illness.

Host Church Programs that Focus on Children and Poverty.

- Hold a study series on the needs of children and the poor, by at least 10% of the adults in the congregation.
- Have a sermon series on the needs of children, with an emphasis on children in widely differing circumstances and communities.
- Hold a series (at least two sessions of seminars) on the needs of children in your community. Include one “hearing” with a panel of various community leaders and one “open mike” session to hear from parents and guardians.

Educate congregants on how they can respond to child abuse:

- Invite a representative from a local child abuse prevention program to talk with your faith community.
- Provide support for families under stress, especially single-parent families.
- Offer opportunities for parents and other caretakers to improve parenting skills and learn about children‟s developmental stages.
- Be certain that leadership of the church is acquainted with the Safe Sanctuaries book, a resource aimed at preventing child abuse in the church. To start a Safe Sanctuaries program in your faith community visit: http://www.gbod.org/site/c.nhLRJ2PMKsG/b.5598111/k.A248/Safe_Sanctuaries.htm.

Keep congregants posted on issues of children and poverty:

- Generate a monthly bulletin insert or electronic newsletter that gives updated information on the status of local, state and federal legislation affecting children and families, and statistics on children and poverty in your state.
- Place a Children and Poverty bulletin board in a strategic location in the church, updated regularly with information on poverty and issues such as hunger, housing and employment.

 

II. Reaching Out to Children in the Community

Goal: To engage in ministries aimed at improving life for chil-dren and for poor people in the neighborhood around the church as well as in nearby communities.

Support public schools.

- Monitor school board elections.
- Establish an active partnership with a nearby school.
- Sponsor a fundraising event for a local public school.
- Recruit members to be volunteers at local schools.
- Provide school supply kits to neighborhood children.
- Enter into partnership with a church that serves a school.

Provide supervised before and/or after school programs or weekend events that include:

- Safe passage (transportation or escorts for walking)
- Nutritious snack or meal.
- Help with homework.
- A faith component.
- Recreation.
- Enrichment experience.
- Art, dance, drama and music programs.
- Computer practice/training.
- English/Spanish classes.

Educate children outside of the classroom.

- Offer a well-publicized Vacation Church School or a summer education program that‟s open to community children.
- Establish mentoring and tutoring programs that seek to nurture children so that they stay out of the juvenile justice system. For more information visit the Children‟s Defense Fund Cradle to Prison Pipeline® http://www.childrensdefense.org/helping-americas-children/cradle-to-prison-pipeline-campaign/action-steps.html#1.

Care for the health of community members.

- Sponsor a Family Health Fair at the church which offers health and dental check-ups, immunizations, and various screenings for blood pressure, diabetes, glaucoma, vision, hearing, etc. Consider sponsoring a blood drive at the same time, so that those who receive have the option of also giving.
- Provide transportation for pregnant women to prenatal classes and health clinics.
- Offer a drug prevention program for neighborhood children and youth, utilizing United Methodist Global Ministries resources on “Substance Abuse and Related Violence”. http://new.gbgm-umc.org/about/us/cim/programs/spsarv/

Care for families within the community.

- Develop a community garden on church property that encourages children and their families to plant, cultivate and harvest.
- Provide a “lending closet” of costly items families need for children, such as child safety seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers, musical instruments, coats, etc.
- Develop partnerships between experienced mothers/grandmothers and new and/or single mothers, and between experienced fathers/grandfathers and new and/or single fathers.
- Sponsor a foster family and offer them care, support and respite.

 

III. Advocating for Legislation and Public Policies that Improve Children’s Lives and the Lives of Poor

Goal: To engage in programs and activities aimed at improving life for children and for poor people in the neighborhood around the church as well as in nearby communities.

Engage in child advocacy work.

- Join a child advocacy network.
- Publish child advocacy information and legislative alerts in your church newsletter.
- Sponsor a forum on state and federal legislation, and have a monthly “offering of letters” to congresspersons, governors, the president, etc.
- Set up an advocacy center or bulletin board in the church that provides information about pending bills affecting children.
- Send out postcards to legislators.

Encourage voter participation in elections.

- Hold a community-wide voter registration drive.
- Arrange transportation to voting polls for all local, state and national elections.

Challenge all candidates for public office to “put children and their families first” by asking them to respond to the following questions and holding them accountable for answers:

- Are children‟s needs and well being considered first in evaluating health and welfare reforms of any new programs or policies? How will state and federal budget proposals effect children?
- Will this program or policy make fewer children poor and increase the likelihood of children growing up healthy, educated, and prepared to work?
- Will this program or policy support families in providing care, nurture, safety, and stability to children?
- Will this program or policy refrain from punishing children for the actions or inactions of their parents or guardians?
- Will this program or policy actually save money in the long run, rather than gain a shortsighted savings that leaves the next generation to pay the price?

 



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