Fifty Ways #46 — Register Voters – especially among young adults. Elected officials pay attention to voters.

Did you vote yesterday?

According to a report last year by Enrique Rangel, Texas ranked 42nd in voter registration, 49th in the number of citizens who contact public officials and 44th in the number of people who discuss politics a few times a week or more.

Did you vote yesterday?

Yesterday’s ballot not only gave voters a voice regarding the November ballot for elected officials but the opportunity to speak up regarding a variety of referendum items including immigration reform, religious freedom, increasing the minimum wage, the second amendment, expanding Medicaid, welfare reform, non-discrimination legislation, and the affordable care act.

Will you vote in November?

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Consider a project at your church to register voters.  It’s fairly simple.  Here’s a link to the online process:

You may fill out a voter registration application online, print it and mail it to the voter registrar in your county of residence.  You are not registered until you have filled out the online application, printed it, and mailed it to your local County Voter Registrar. The County Voter Registrar’s address can be found at the top of the online outputted voter registration application once you have submitted your information from the fill-in-the blanks screen.

Will your voice be heard in November?

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50 Ways #30, Part 2 — Provide Financial Education

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They brought cookies. Two representatives from a local bank came to our ESL ministry with cookies. They responded to an invitation to share how to open a checking account with the students. The students had asked for help with that.  Many lacked a bank account.  They operated in the alternative economy using check cashing services and payday lending.  Not the optimum way to do one’s banking.

So, many banks are eager to do outreach and share financial literacy materials.  And many literacy programs have taken advantage of these resources.   My first thought was to share this and encourage the use of financial literacy tools from banks as a way to meet students’ needs.  Then, I did a little research.  Just a little, but it was eye opening.

In an article last fall in the Atlantic Cities, Lisa Servon provided keen insight into why the poor use the alternative banking system.  See The Real Reason the Poor Go Without Bank Accounts.

Are check cashing services more expensive than using a bank where one has accounts?  Yes.

Is payday lending a scourge on the poor?  Yes.  But Dr. Servon helps us understand why the alternative banking system has traction.  As we seek to help our students better use their money, may we be more sensitive to their life situations.  Financial literacy resources are a good idea.  Let’s mix in more understanding of the life situations of those using the alternative banking system as we seek to help.

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50 Ways #30 — Offer specialized classes in computer proficiency and financial education

Focus on the word computer.  Expand thinking.  Think more as in broadband and computer.  We’ll get to financial education next time.

100 million Americans lack broadband at home.  Imagine that.  You are not among them.  If it’s sad (and it is) that many families lack books at home, consider life without computers.  Wait, don’t go down that road. They’re here to stay.  But consider the digital divide.  Homes lacking access to broadband often lack computers as well.  Children who lack access to computers and the internet at home are at a decided disadvantage with their peers.  Youth and adults seeking employment face a hurdle if they can’t access the internet at home.  Families in need of benefits such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) can’t enroll at home without a computer.  It’s a big disadvantage not to have a computer and broadband at home.

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Good news.  Today is Digital Learning Day.  You can learn more at DIGITAL LEARNING DAY.

And you can help persons in your community cross the digital divide via a new program known as Everyone On.  See EVERYONE ON.  Help is available for those lacking technical expertise, and there are programs to assist low-income individuals with internet at reduced costs and refurbished computers.

Add computer literacy to your literacy ministry portfolio.  ESL students can extend their learning via helpful websites at home.  So many applications . . . what will you do?

 

Fifty Ways #40 — Collaborating and Ministering to All Kinds of Needs

Collaborate with other churches to minister to both the literacy and nutritional needs of children in the community.

Do you remember the story last summer about Agape Baptist Church in Cleburne ?  Pastor Julio Robles stepped up to the plate when he learned of an opportunity to provide breakfast and lunch for hungry children in Cleburne.  The church partnered with others to address educational and spiritual needs of children as well as the physical need for food.

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The emphasis today is planning.

From a FaceBook post yesterday:   Literacy ConneXus has offered to work with Summer Meals Sponsors to get them books that they can use for activities at their summer meals sites. The goal is to create a Summer Reading Club at the meal sites, help children with their reading skills and increase program participation. Literacy ConneXus book banks provide books for programs that share books with children and youth. Thank you Literacy ConneXus for your partnership and support. If you would like to get more info please contact Marty Otero, Child Hunger Outreach Specialist at: marty_otero@baylor.edu.

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The Texas Hunger Initiative  has twelve regional sites.  Literacy Connexus has three book banks.  Do the math, friends.  We need help!  More books.  More book banks.  Ten planners signed up yesterday for books in Fort Worth.  We’ll need donations by June 1. 

Confident that God will provide.

 

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Fifty Ways #38 — Honor, celebrate, and support teachers at a local school

My first thought on this way your church can bless your community through literacy:  “It takes one to know one.”  And not a playground retort.  Rather, it takes a retired educator (teacher) to know how to honor, celebrate and support teachers at a local school.

Case in point – Caroline Bell – retired three years ago after teaching for 36 years in Fort Worth and Crowley–mostly Kindergarten.  As you might guess, Books for the Border and Beyond is a special passion for Caroline.  But this week we’re taking a look at how your church can make a difference in the lives of teachers at a local school:  Put a smile on their faces.  Help them know that they are not alone.  Assure them that their work is appreciated.

Caroline Bell

In the past two years Caroline has led her church, Western Hills Baptist of Fort Worth, to celebrate the teachers of their adopted public school on special occasions like Valentine’s Day.  She has made sure that teachers have special food items on teacher workdays, and has brightened their faces with encouraging notes.  Next week, New Year’s resolutions will be severely tested by the arrival of cinnamon rolls from a famous local bakery.

Caroline has also lightened the load for teachers by encouraging her church to devote funds to special projects chosen by the principal.  She has been reading to first graders on a weekly basis through the Fort Worth ISD’s Read 2 Win program.  Working with a local food pantry, Caroline helps prepare  “snack packs” for children who lack food at home.  Her compassion for the children is evidenced by what she does—and leads others to do—as well as how she blesses the teachers and administration in this adopted school.

Caroline reading to girl

The principal put it like this, “The amount of support that Western Hills Baptist provides to our campus is so meaningful and makes such a huge impact.”

Literacy Connexus seeks to be a catalyst for change in communities.  As a board member, Caroline Bell sets a great example by leading her church to honor, celebrate, and support teachers.

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50 Ways #2 — Looking Through the Lens of Literacy

2.  Put the lens of literacy on everything the church does and make education a priority in your church.  Encourage church leadership to act on this.

I once had a camera with the capacity to interchange lenses:  telephoto, wide angle and portrait.  Now, that’s done electronically by all but serious photographers.  Each special purpose lens or setting accomplishes something different.  The key is the intention of the user.  For example, a wide angle approach to a panoramic view makes all the difference. 

Intentionally having a literacy lens for churches is the key to improving results regarding education.  Have you heard the story of the last time a low-level reader went to Sunday school? It followed the teacher asking each one to read a verse from the lesson.  Asking for volunteers works much better.  Sensitivity to the needs of others can lead to ministry.

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Years ago, the husband of one of the members of my Sunday school class was one of those whose heart would have actually stopped beating if he had been called on to read aloud. His wife shared this need with me.  We met before Sunday school to work on his literacy skills.  You would never have guessed that he had a problem with reading.  With four million adults in Texas lacking high school completion or a GED, there are others.  Perhaps in your church.  Certainly down the street. 

On a positive note, the items that follow on the list of 50 ways churches can bless their community through literacy, items 3-49, flow out of prayer and intentionality.  They don’t just happen. Check out the list.  Ask for guidance considering the needs of your congregation and community.  Speak with your pastor and other leaders about how your church can be impactful, intentional and missional through literacy ministry.

Take a minute to consider #50.  It’s blank of course.  Our way of saying that we don’t have it all figured out.  Having looked at the list now, what would you add?  Please share.

How’s your focus?glasses

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50 Ways–The Journey

Congregations have the opportunity to address needs all around them through literacy ministry. Take a journey with us through 50 Ways to explore the possibilities. We’ll use our new poster as a guide, blogging our way through the church, community, and capitol. But not in the order of the list. We’ll cover the first two, and then take a seasonal approach – making connections with calendar and other considerations.

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Ministry through literacy may be done at many levels and with various age groups. Churches are full of people with diverse skills, passions, and gifts. Each member can take part in assisting and equipping other members in the areas of literacy and education.

#1 Pray

Churches large and small can pray. Not every church can host a family reading fair on the Border or begin a program to teach English to speakers of other languages. But every church can pray for its community. 

Many studies have been conducted on the efficacy of prayer—whether and how it works.  Some measure impact of the one or ones who pray; others the object of the prayers.  This blog will not add measurably to that discussion.  What can’t be denied is that a church praying for its community is more aware of need and more willing to address that need.

Pray with me as we drive from my church north a couple of miles:

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It’s hard getting out of the parking lot on school mornings.  That’s where parents park to walk their children to school.  Pray with me for the children and their families.  For the teachers and others who work there.

Our neighborhood is changing.  Residents of several homes would be greatly affected by immigration legislation now pending.  Pray for persons living in the shadows, fearful and hopeful.

The businesses on the corners have changed in thirty years.  Bustling grocery stores and restaurants are now in third, fourth, and fifth iterations.  Changes in the global economy has impacted how people are able to make ends meet.  Pray for the ones looking for jobs.

As we continue north, we’ll pass by many apartment complexes no longer the upscale singles destinations in the original developers’ minds.  Here Katrina refugees lived for a season.  Now refugees from other kinds of storms may be seen walking to the Laundromat.  Pray for people figuring out how to cope with life’s challenges.

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Now we arrive at the elementary school our church adopted last year.  Our smallish church with less than 100 attending services.  Yet, because we prayed and got involved, persons have been blessed.

What does it look like down the street for you?  Join me today, please, in praying for our communities.

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Improving Our Serve

Recently Literacy Connexus received a grant from The Trull Foundation to update our Fifty Ways Your Church Can Bless Your Community Through Literacy poster.  We consolidated and combined, added to and subtracted from the first edition.  Most of the items on the first run were borrowed from others, with some modification. In addition to covering the design and printing costs, the Trull Foundation grant enabled us to launch the new product with a presentation at the Literacy Texas Annual Conference in San Marcos in August.

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Perhaps you have already seen the new version. We grouped the ways churches can help into three categories by location:  on the church campus, in the community, and at the capitol.  The idea is to stretch our thinking and improve our serve.  Here’s a challenge.  Look at the list and identify how many your church is currently doing.  Not a competition; just an exercise in awareness of community connection.

Before our first daughter (Leslie) was born, Donna and I participated in a Lamaze class.  At one point there was a competition among the dads for speed diapering.  What a laugh to see expectant dads racing to diaper large baby dolls.  Later it occurred to me that speed was not the most important factor in diapering . . .

Diapering dad

Just as speed is not the most crucial aspect of diapering babies, quantity is not the best way to approach the Fifty Ways list.  It’s not how many of those on the list describe your church, but how serving through these ways blesses your community.

Oh, and please notice that #50 is blank:  Share your idea with us! What is your church doing to bless your community through literacy and education?  Recently, at the WMU Fiesta at Green’s Creek Baptist Church, Pam Patterson suggested taking books and magazines to Veterans Hospitals.  Great idea!  This is the first #50; perhaps you have another.  We’ll be sharing these on the website.

Click here for our online Fifty Ways list.  Contact us if you would like us to send you some free copies of our Fifty Ways poster.

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