The poverty rate for those under 18 will soon hit 25% in America.
This video from 60 Minutes broke my heart yesterday. While riding the trolley to work I listened to the audio and wept.
16 million kids in our country are currently living below the poverty line. That’s an increase of 2 million in just 2 years as families slip from “middle class” into poverty.
It’s where you live. In your city, town, suburb, gated community, or rural area. And it’s people who never thought they’d struggle. And certainly never thought they’d become homeless.
As the video shows, millions of kids are now homeless. We hear about foreclosures and we think of the housing market. We forget that those are also displaced people. Families who lost everything.
5 Ways You and Your Church Can Respond
As I listened to this story, I thought about how can the church NOT respond?
I thought about how churches and youth ministries could easily do a few things that could make a big difference. Ministry life just can’t go on as normal with a quarter of the families in our community unsure where their next meal might come from, or unsure if they can stay in their apartment another month, or unsure if they can even keep their families together.
It’s one thing to preach Good News. It’s another thing to actually be Good News.
What are some things you can actually do?
Start a food closet. There isn’t a church door in America that doesn’t get knocked on every week asking for food. If your church doesn’t have a food closet, start one. If the church doesn’t want one, just start bringing non-perishable food items to church every time you visit. They’ll figure it out when it starts to pile up.
Get out of your car and look around. In your routine where you drive everywhere, you won’t ever see the problem among us. Stop driving everywhere! Commit to start walking or riding a bike, and you’ll see things you never thought existing in your community. It’ll do your heart good.
Take a family in. There’s a part in the 60 Minutes piece above where they say that most families foreclosed on move into a neighbor or family members house. I know it’s easier to pretend you don’t see what’s happening. But a lot of people in a lot of churches have more bedrooms than people in their homes. Maybe you’ve got a big crib for a reason?
Convert some classrooms into temporary housing. It’s sickening how many churches have so much space that goes unused for 6.5 out of 7 days. Spend a tiny amount of money to convert under-utilized space into temporary housing for families so they don’t get split up. Convert a bathroom stall to a shower, buy some used basic furniture, and allow families a place to regroup for 60-90 days.
Open your youth room 5 days per week after school. There are some things that are so simple to do, yet we don’t do it because we get hung up by thinking too small. It would cost you nothing to have a volunteer staff your youth room after school every day from 2:30 – 5:00 PM. Hang some signs up at the middle and high schools. You already have space, just make it available to kids who need a safe and quiet place to study overseen by a caring adult.
How about you? What are some things you can do, as an individual or as a church, in the next 30 days?