Lessons from a “Community Partnership Pro”
Faithbridge UMC member Jerrie Amos has developed a system for finding divine connections in the community and she is contagiously passionate about empowering others to do the same.
In her position as Community Liaison for Care Net Pregnancy Center in Houston, Faithbridge UMC member Jerrie Amos has mastered a system for finding and developing strong community partners. “When we find other organizations that mirror our mission to share Christ while providing assistance of some sort, we consider that to be a divine connection. We have learned the benefits of partnering with existing groups rather than always starting new ministries. It seems exponentially more effective to have one big targeted effort rather than lots of little scattered efforts meeting the same need,” she shares.
For example, she consistently hears about groups that want to start a nonprofit and file a 501c3 to help young teen moms. “I ask them if they have met with other ministries that are already doing this and how would they offer something different,” she says, “and I am surprised by the lack of research people have done before they begin investing time, money, energy and valuable volunteers. I work to connect them with other groups with the same vision and then help them to put all their multiple resources together to form a strong, collaborative working ministry.”
A Process for Finding Ideal Mission Partners
When vetting potential community partners, Jerrie uses the Bridge Gap Form to begin the conversation. “When I vet a resource or community partner,” she adds, “I ask specific questions about their funding, who they are serving and insight about their mission, which are questions on my form. Those questions open the door for additional discussion and discernment. The key to impactful partnerships is doing research and having connections with people who do what they do with excellence.” Additionally, Jerrie monitors her particular area of ministry by using Google Alerts to follow what is being said or done in her field of interest.
She’s quick to tell you that God prepared her for this Community Liaison position long before she took it on. “I was in women's ministry for many years before God showed me His hand on the ministry of Care Net when I began as a volunteer almost a decade ago,” she shares. “I joined the staff and immediately saw that my professional background gave me the foundation for my distinct calling here at the Care Net Pregnancy Center.” Serving as an account/client relationship manager in the corporate world equipped Jerrie with specific research skills to create databases and systems to put a new partner and referral process into place. Care Net now carefully researches prospective partners in search of those that mirror the Care NET values. Staff and volunteers now use an excel database which is able to be "up to the minute current" throughout a system with multiple users. She is sharing her Excel database template for congregations that would like to be more intentional about finding missional partners ideal for building long-term relationships.
When someone comes to the Center for help, the last thing Jerrie wants to do is to send them to a nonprofit resource that has either relocated, closed or that places no value on sharing Christ. After a few mishaps when she first began helping the Care Net Center, Jerrie realized her business skills were needed. By replacing the Care Center’s binder of outdated information -- on other nonprofits in the city – she developed a much more relationship-driven system. “Nowadays, we meet and get to know our prospective partners much like a new mother researches adoptive parents. We want to avoid partnering with groups that might lead to a bad reputation, but more importantly we want to be careful that all partners present the love of Christ.”
Bridging to the Community: Externally Focused
In addition to mentoring young women on a regular basis in her career, Jerrie is a part of the Faithbridge discipleship team for women, a member of a Grow Group, and she serves on a prayer team twice monthly as an Elementary Shepherd. There are about a dozen members of Faithbridge that are regular volunteers and supporters of Care Net. Care Net is also one of the Bridging Ministries under the leadership of Pastor Dan Slagle and Peggy Burdon that help the congregation to extend the message of the church.
Care Net has 1200 pregnancy centers and partners enthusiastically with churches across the nation to facilitate young mothers growing in Christ and their children as well. “Carefully chosen community partnerships can increase the mission and vision of your church,” she adds. “As believers, we want to truly help others rather than just complete a task. We want to provide something tangible that they need while also pointing them to the cross – adding value to their lives.” She champions the idea of serving with excellence. “When hearts are changed, lives are changed and God is exalted.”