One very powerful model for operating a ministry to the poor is the multi-church cooperative. The basic idea behind this model is that a number of churches in one local area can combine resources, reduce duplication of services, and improve service.
What does this look like?
Several great examples of this kind of cooperative ministry exist. They differ from place to place, but they have a number of features in common.
- They often have more than one Christian denomination involved in the efforts. Feeding the hungry is something that all Christians should be able to agree upon.
- Each participating church makes a commitment in terms of financial and volunteer support. An example of this commitment is a monthly assessment by partner churches based on the size of their congregation. For example, every church might pledge $20 per month for every 100 regular church members.
- One church might provide the physical location as its contribution to the effort.
- The ministry is a separate non-profit from all of the churches involved. This is done for legal and liability reasons as well as to give the ministry the ability to receive tax-deductible gifts directly.
- The ministry can include one or more of the following services to clients: food pantry, clothes closet, utility assistance, thrift store, training and education, case management, medical clinic, housing assistance, homeless shelter, furniture assistance.
- Increased resources means an increased number of paid/professional staff. This can include professional fundraising staff and program staff.
These kinds of ministries have been very successful and are often the largest non-governmental response to poverty in a given city.
For some examples of this kind of ministry at work, take a look at these successful ministries: