Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pacific Southwest engages in aggressive grant program for growth.

The Church of the Brethren's Pacific Southwest District has begun a program of "Grants for Growth." The district board, chaired by Bill Johnson, completed its first review of grants in Nov. 2007.

Recent sales of district property have added new resources to increase grant amounts and loans to local congregations. Over the last two years 2006-07, the district invested approximately $1.25 million dollars into ministry grants. "In 2008 we are committed to do that in one year alone," reported Johnson.

The district board's report on the grant program noted that the process actually has been in effect for many years, beginning with very small pastoral support and church development grants. Expansion began in 2001, and now grants are being given in a wide variety of categories.

The categories of grants include a Companion Grant to support an additional staff person in a congregation to "staff for growth"; an Exceptional Needs Grant to assist congregations with issues that could severely impair or threaten vital ministries; loans for building programs, repairs, and capital improvements; matching grants that may be used by congregations for any reason "consistent with the spirit of the Church of the Brethren"; a Partnership Grant for new cooperative ministries between congregations and Brethren-affiliated agencies in the area, such as camps, retirement communities, and the University of La Verne; a Transformation Grant to provide assistance to congregations that have discerned a need to change, redirect, or create new ministries; and a wide-open category of "other grants." The district also helps nonprofits across the country apply for the "Margaret Carl Trust--Bible/Tract Grant" to help distribute Bibles, Testaments, Gospels, and tracts teaching temperance ideals.

The new district board structure uses task groups to work on funding, training existing church leaders, and training and credentialing leaders for new church growth. "Because of the aggressive growth of the new church plants and the aggressive application of the companion grant (second minister) we have created a new but good problem," the board said.

During the January district board retreat an organizational specialist with the Alban Institute facilitated a district board "brain storming" session on the new shape of the district's work.

The district has published a booklet to describe the grant program and its requirements, and has posted information on its website, to encourage congregations to be creative and forward looking in their ministries.

"While some of our congregations will need assistance in repairing infrastructure, the hope of district leadership is that congregations will begin to focus on their community's needs and emphasize the need to develop relationships with persons beyond their walls," the board report said. "Jesus did not just preach within the confines of the temple, or give discourse only within the synagogues, but walked and lived among the people. Though it is important to meet the needs of the congregation in terms of pastoral care, we also need to be missional, sharing Christ through word and deed."

In its first review of the grant program, the district board concluded that "while progress was pretty good at most locations, it was not positive at some locations.... We are looking for growth in each location. Our desire is to move funds where positive results are being found, and to question the use of grant dollars where results in growth are stagnant or negative."

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Source: 7/2/2008 Newsline

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