Single Moms, Families in Focus as Brooklyn Church Embraces Neighborhood
By Jaymie Dieterle
Refuge Church of God in Brooklyn, New York, under the leadership of Pastor Kevin Osbourne, has a big vision for the future. “We have been in this neighborhood for sixty-one years. We believe God assigned this community to our congregation. So, our question has been, ‘How can the church better serve the people of this neighborhood?’” says Pastor Osbourne.
The church’s vision is centered around a Pre-K-through-eighth-grade school across the street from their building. The families who send their children there are the focus. Single mothers are of special concern to the congregation. The church knows that these parents are in need of after-school programming for their kids. Some need classes to help them learn to better manage their resources or find employment. Some need a GED; some need conflict-management training. There are families who could use food assistance, which the church is already providing, and others could use a safe shelter while they disentangle from dangerous living situations. Eventually the church would like to start “Elizabeth House” as a shelter for families. They are also hoping to add a transportation ministry that would help local kids access a new NYPD youth facility in another part of Brooklyn, as well as helping elderly members of the community who struggle to access services.
One way the congregation is stepping into their vision of expanding service to their community is through a Change the Story grant. The Church of God Ministries Change the Story Fund is designated for local churches looking for resources to help meet critical needs in their community as a result of the global pandemic. Refuge Church of God has received one of these microgrants to launch their ministry to the single mothers in their part of Brooklyn.
Pastor Osbourne says they are starting their outreach with a needs assessment. While they have long planned some of their outreach pieces for this target population, they are aware that the global pandemic has changed everything. “We can’t assume that the programs we have been planning—GED and money-management classes, and after-school programs—are what is needed right now. There may be other needs that are more urgent. We want to respond to the actual needs in our area rather than just move ahead with our plans. So, our first step, which we have already started, is a needs assessment,” says Pastor Osbourne.
The other priorities that Refuge is focusing on with their Change the Story funds are coming out of the early feedback from that assessment. Local families need Internet access, and computers or tablets to access the Internet. This will help with job-searching, as well as school needs for the children in the neighborhood. Refuge is also recruiting instructors who can lead some of the classes they anticipate holding in the coming months, as well as finding like-minded community groups who are already providing those services so Refuge can partner with them. “We don’t want to start things from scratch if there are good programs already doing the work. We can connect some of our volunteers with the outreach already happening.”
Refuge Church is hopeful that the support from Change the Story will be a launching point for an array of ministries for the people who call their part of Brooklyn home. “We know if we can make a difference for the moms in our community, that will make a difference for the children,” says Pastor Osbourne.
Refuge Church of God is one of several congregations this year to receive a Change the Story grant. In these dire times communities are experiencing desperate need, and churches are struggling to respond. The Change the Story Fund exists to help congregations meet local, critical needs. Your gift of as little as $10 will provide micro grants that empower churches to Change the Story in their communities. Learn more and invest with your generous gift today at www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-story.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Jaymie Dieterle is a freelance writer with a passion for books, reading, and life-long learning. She enjoys writing adult small group and Sunday school curriculum for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press). Jaymie and her family live in Anderson, Indiana, and they are actively involved at Madison Park Church of God.