Today’s entry is by guest blogger, Dr. Parnell Lovelace.
During my time in leadership of a local church of 3,500 people, we decided to create and implement tangible outreach objectives that would impact child welfare and health in our community. Disparities in health and disproportionate representation of African American and Hispanic people within the county significantly impacted infant mortality rates. We approached individuals in our congregation with backgrounds in health, education, and social services and formed a steering team that would explore avenues by which the church could collaborate with other community organizations to develop an intervention program that would help lower the rates of infant mortality (children ages birth-1.5 years old) in our county.
Meetings were held with county supervisors and other stakeholders within the community to explore these ideas. Initially, a grant was provided to the local church and its community partners. The collaborative provided the following:
1. Mentorship to expectant mothers and mothers of newborns
2. Assistance with transportation to medical appointments
3. Provision of referral sources to assist with daily needs
4. Parenting education
The church hired staff using the partnership collaborative funding. These staff members reached out to the community through various means of media support and advertisement. Soon, a steady number of clients were contacting the program coordinator. As the program expanded, it became apparent that to fully integrate the values that resonated with the church, it would be necessary to become an autonomous organization that did not receive public funding. Some of those values included prayer and freely sharing the Christian faith.
It has been two years since the initiation of the the infant mortality prevention program. Nearly eighty households have been or currently are being served. To date, sixty thriving babies have been given an opportunity to develop properly. The organization now serves as a model to other churches and community organizations. The program is currently funded through donations given directly to the church. Plans are being developed to have the program serve as a separate non-profit organization. We encourage our congregation to not only support the program through regular monetary giving, but also through sharing with various organizations, family, and friends about the work that is being done through this successful intervention. The infant mortality prevention program is a powerful example of how churches can influence the community through care-giving and educational support. Such ministries widen the reach of the church by addressing an identifiable need. Programs like this provide measurable results by which stewardship, evangelism, and outreach may be evaluated. The mantra “each one reach one” becomes personal as in this case, “the church is reaching the community one baby at a time.”
Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr., MSW, D.Min.
Lovelace Leadership Connection
Rancho Cordova, California
As the successful founding pastor of 3,000-member Center of Praise Ministries in Sacramento, California, Parnell M. Lovelace, Jr. now serves as an apostolic strategist, merging the church with the social constructs of urban community. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Oral Roberts University, a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Oklahoma, a Master of Practical Theology degree from Oral Roberts University, and a D.Min. degree from Biola University (Talbot School of Theology). Dr. Lovelace currently serves on the Board of Trustees at William Jessup University and is a certified church consultant with the Society for Church Consulting.