Part two of two parts; click here to read part one

Third, they are marked by regular, face-to-face, structured contact between the volunteers and the participants. They do not rely on spontaneous interaction but set defined meeting times and articulate specific goals and deadlines. The friendship developed between the participant and the church volunteers is purposeful, directed toward a specified end.

Fourth, effective programs demand individual responsibility. They challenge participants to take small steps toward change and provide incentives for taking those steps. New Focus, a Christian nonprofit that shows churches how to transition from commodity-based ministry to relational, holistic ministry, encourages congregations to establish a weekly "life skills" training class. Individuals who have a history of repeatedly requesting financial help from the church must attend the weekly class and meet regularly with a budget counselor in order to receive further aid. They are also linked with a Compassion Circle of six to eight church volunteers who provide practical help (such as temporary babysitting, transportation, car repairs, or help with job searching) as well as prayer and emotional support. Participants and church volunteers draft a strategic plan for achieving independence from the public (and private) welfare system. As participants complete aspects of that plan, they receive groceries or household items in recognition of their progress.

Making the shift to relational ministry is difficult because it requires that we give more of ourselves and our time, as well as our money. By concentrating church resources on fewer families, though, we are able to make a long-lasting impact. Through time-intensive, individually tailored aid, ...

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