The importance of the church getting involved in their community

SALISBURY, MD – In the early days of his church plant, pastor Ryan Weaver and his team at Remedy Church scoured the newspapers looking for ways to serve the people of Salisbury, Md. It was a small ad asking for landscaping help that eventually caught their eye. “We saw the landscaping ad and when we realized the need was on Booth Street we knew it was the right place for us,” Weaver explains.

Few others in the area might consider Booth Street to be “right place” for them to serve. This pocket of the community is marked by the darkness of crime and poverty that covers the local news on a weekly basis. Most of the families live in low-income housing and are struggling against the cycle of destitution that has permeated Booth Street for so long. Rather than shy away, Weaver and his team jumped into service on Booth Street, taking 25 people to the area for a day of service.

“We showed up that day and just served–landscaping, weed-eating, cleaning up trash,” Weaver recalls. “But I noticed members of our team slowly starting to talk to the people on Booth Street, getting to know them and figure out their specific needs. That was really the catalyst to starting our congregation’s relationship with our friends on Booth Street. “Serving them enabled us to intersect in their stories and start having the kind of conversations that build trust and relationships. Service was the only way we were going to be able to share the gospel with our friends on Booth Street.”

That kind of service is the heart behind the North American Mission Board (NAMB). They encourage churches to host a day or season of service in their communities in an effort to share the gospel in action with neighbors in need. And a service day is exactly the avenue to do that. Send Relief believes the Church is the solution. Our initiatives equip and encourage churches to engage in their communities and be the places that serves the least of these. Be part of Send Relief today.

Tonaka Houston cried a lot in her first year of teaching at a Title 1 school in Memphis, Tennessee. The school was one of the lowest-performing schools, absenteeism was a problem and 95% of the children in the school were on the free lunch program. Many did not know how to read. While the situation seemed hopeless to Tonaka, help was on the way. A simple reading program in the Memphis area helped second graders in Tonaka’s class, and many other classes, learn to read using a curriculum based on sight words.

Low-income schools in the Memphis area saw 142% increase in children reading sight words on grade level. That program was ARISE2Read, a ministry begun through Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee. ARISE2Read and Send Relief have partnered to train other volunteers and churches to use sight words to help increase literacy in low-income students. Donna Gaines, founder of ARISE2Read, describes why this ministry is so important: “The Lord commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. These children are my neighbors. This is my motivator and it has given me a real sense of urgency.” The training for ARISE2Read is simple to provide, and the ministry works with each volunteer spending one hour a week working with two second graders. The results for those children and adults have been life-changing.

The Needs In Your Community

it is important to first take time to discover and understand the unique needs within your community. Explore the physical community, listen to and learn from people living and working in the area and seek God’s guidance by prayer-driving and prayer-walking the neighborhood. To learn more about how to identify needs in your community, download the Discovering the Needs of Your Community guide. If not, check out some of our other ministry guides for opportunities that fit for your church’s gifting and community’s needs.

The Need For Literacy Ministry In America:

  • Two-thirds of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

  • Almost 85% of teenagers in the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

  • More than 70% of prison inmates in the U.S. cannot read above a 4th-grade level.

  • Students who are not proficient readers by the 3rd grade are four times more likely to dropout of school.

  • 61% of low-income families have no books for children in their homes.

  • 75% of Americans who receive food stamps are in the lowest two levels of literacy.

  • Teenage girls between ages 16-19 who live below the poverty level and have below average reading skills are six times more like to have children out of wedlock than girls who read proficiently.

  • But, children in low-income homes who read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade have an 89% rate of graduation from high school.

While these statistics paint a grim picture, there is hope! ARISE2Read found that in one year of working with these at-risk students, students showed a 135% increase in reading skills on the Fry Word grade level test in seven schools. That means that these students moved from a 31% proficiency level in October 2015 to 80% proficiency in May 2016. ARISE2Read partners with evangelical churches and businesses within local school districts to help strengthen second graders’ reading proficiently so they can enter third grade reading at the third grade level.

The program works with each volunteer working individually with two second graders for 30 minutes each. It’s a one-hour a week commitment per volunteer that will have a lifetime impact on students and communities. The bottom line is this: You, and your church, can be a part of helping eradicate illiteracy in your community.

Strategically Consider Ministry Opportunities

Take the next step by enlisting a small group of people within the congregation to assess ministry opportunities by working through the following questions with you:

  • What partnerships in your community have you considered connecting to meet this need and use this resource? These could include government officials, school officials and teachers, other community churches and leaders, local shelters or other pre-established programs addressing literacy.

  • Who in your church is passionate and equipped to lead or participate in this ministry? Consider children’s workers, parents and/or families, teenagers or youth groups, Sunday School classes, senior adults, anyone with a desire to make a difference in children’s lives through reading.

  • What resources and relationships has God given your church to support this ministry? Consider missions offerings, other financial resources, church members who are connected to local schools and Sunday School classes as places to start. These questions can lead this small group of local missionaries to determine whether or not:

  1. There a desire within the congregation to meet this need.

  2. There are resources of people, space and money to meet this need.

  3. This ministry is sustainable over time.

  4. You feel God leading you as a congregation in this direction.



God may be moving you to be the catalyst of starting a literacy ministry in your community. If so, where do you start? We’ve provided eight steps that can lead you to successfully meet this much-needed ministry:

1. Create awareness of the need for a literacy ministry.

  • Enlist a group of people who are interested in reading and literacy (teachers, school administrators, children’s workers, parents, senior adults, teenagers).

  • Evaluate what you’ve learned through local community leaders and individuals about the literacy needs of your community.

  • Review what local programs are doing to address literacy needs in your community.

  • Contact a local elementary school in a low-income area about working with second graders. Determine how the school wants to handle security with adults coming into the school each week.

  • Contact second grade teachers to identify at-risk children who would benefit from one-on-one tutoring.

2. Create a ministry plan based on your findings.

ARISE2Read uses the simple word curriculum called Team Read. ARISE2Read also provides teacher training in how to use the curriculum, and explains the requirements for new background checks for all volunteers. Contact ARISE2Read or Send Relief for specific instructions about enlisting and training volunteers.

3. Enlist an ARISE2Read Director.

Begin by enlisting church approval and support of the ministry. The director has responsibility for:

  • Enlist a leadership team and lead the team to establish program objectives.

  • Work with area school second grade teachers to identify at-risk students.

  • Keep school administrators informed. Be good partners.

  • Coordinate the schedule of times when volunteers are at the school.

Contact NAMB Send Relief for more information and available resources to begin your ministry to children. Make a difference in your community for the future.

Courtesy of NAMB Send Relief