“We learned a lot from you and we are in the process of changing how we handle financial requests we receive. Thank you again.” –Lee Street Christian Reformed Church Deacons shared this with our our Congregation Connections Team this past year. Lee Street CRC is pictured above (photo credit to Troy Meekhof, @MidJulyMedia).
No day is quite the same in the Congregation Connections’ program at Access. The phone stays busy, and there is a constant of flurry of emails and check requests. Why all the activity? In the past year our Congregations Connections team worked with 100 partner churches to serve over 1,500 families, and distribute $314,520 to meet needs in our community.
Congregation Connections links social services and faith groups, working to strengthen communities throughout Kent County by supporting ministry and outreach teams. Access caseworkers support congregations in stewarding resources and funds in their benevolence outreach programs by providing casework services at no cost, with the goal of the congregation building relationships with neighbors that come to them for assistance. It also allows congregations to come together to meet a need. For example, when Mr. Smith needed a $1,800 repair on the truck he used daily for his professional painting business and only had $300 to put towards it, multiple churches came together to provide the funds to make the repair. This meant he could continue to work and support his family. Mr. Smith praised God for helping them overcome an unexpected obstacle.
Niki Perkins, Casework Director, describes Congregation Connections as “Casework plus.” The program’s mission is to connect the faith-based community to issues of justice and stewardship within their benevolence outreach. She is working to build into the program increased opportunities for education and training. For example, in the past year, just under two thirds of distributed funds went to support families facing housing challenges. Looking at the big picture of the affordable housing crisis is critical as we work together for restoration and justice in our communities. Training on topics such as housing, benevolence, Asset-Based Community Development, and anti-racism will empower faith communities to look at the root causes of the emergency needs families are facing and work together towards long-term solutions.
Collaboration is essential, and Access is glad to be working with the Christian Reformed Church’s Office of Race Relations and CORR (Congregations Organizing for Racial Reconciliation) to provide diversity and anti-racism training. We know that unless we address racism, we will not be able to get to the root causes of injustice and poverty. Access’ staff and board will all be attending CORR training this Fall. We’re thankful to have partners in this critical work.
If you’re interested in receiving our separate monthly newsletter for the Congregation Connections program, reply to this email and let us know! We’d also love to hear any questions you may have, or if you’d like to get your faith community involved. This program is entirely funded by donations and support from churches and faith groups, if you’re interested in giving to support this program click here for our online giving portal, or send a gift with a note that it’s for Congregations Connections, to Access of West Michigan, 1700 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49508.