I was encouraged recently by King David’s insights from Psalms 133: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! Immediately, I thought about the work that I, and my colleagues at Simon Solutions, are doing each week and the crazy, amazing journey that got us to where we are today. From outward appearances, we are a database system for shared case management to serve the poor across a city. But inwardly, I know this technology is a tool God has used to answer my prayers for unity of the church and transformation for the poor.
Collaboration, a First Step
For over 25 years, I served on the staff of churches in Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama. The Lord gave me many opportunities to work with passionate Christian leaders who shared common vision for working together to impact people’s lives. Because of my organizing skills, I was invited to coordinate many collaborative projects: evangelistic crusades, ecumenical prayer gatherings, Christian music festivals, and more. All were designed to address spiritual needs. I learned that getting ministry leaders “on the same page” from different churches is a tremendous challenge. Despite the challenges, I always considered unity of purpose a worthwhile cause.
But I often wondered if church leaders would be willing to do more than address spiritual needs and get involved in more complex community challenges such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, and health disparities. It took a hurricane for me to get an answer to that question.
When Hurricane Katrina hit a stretch of Alabama coast in 2005, it devastated small coastal shrimping towns. While the storm had an immediate and visible effect coastally, there was a ripple affect into other neighboring communities. Southern Alabama families and entire neighborhoods migrated north, settling the Shoals region and my hometown of Florence, AL.
Churches, the Red Cross, the United Way and other agencies in my town were scrambling to meet the immediate needs of these families who had lost everything. Admittedly, resources ran dry very quickly because of the lack of coordination and unity among us. Knowing I was involved with my son in a start-up technology company, our local United Way director asked if we could help solve their community-wide need for real-time communication and coordination of people and resources. So we got to work and co-created a tool that allowed churches, city entities, non-profits and other social service providers work together.
What surprised me the most was that churches wanted to continue working together long after the recovery process. So we began to adapt the tool for applications beyond disaster relief and found more and more communities across the country searching for more effective ways to work together.
Over the past 10 years I have witnessed much change in how churches are engaging their communities. More and more churches are realizing that they are the largest repository of caring power and volunteer help in their communities. They are learning how to connect, learn from each other, and collaborate for the faith, social, and economic well-being of others.
The result of all this is that the church is becoming more culturally relevant to the needs of their community. Instead of constantly striving to get more people into their church buildings, they are learning how to take “church” to where people are living their everyday lives – at work, raising families, and searching for meaningful ways to give back to their community.
What I have long hoped to see is beginning to happen in more and more communities across the country; the church working together to serve the needs of their community. What I didn’t realize was that collaboration was just the beginning.
Transformation, a Next Step
Because we are in over a thousand communities across the country I’m seeing a trend among groups that work together over time. As these groups become more efficient at managing their benevolence and emergency relief work they begin to want to do more than just help people “get by” or avert their next crisis. They want to help them and even whole communities actually “get ahead” to a better quality of life and brighter future. We are seeing some exciting examples like Stillwater Cares and Watered Gardens where groups are working together to help people actually break out of the cycle of poverty. I’m confident this is the new face of charity and the real end goal of community collaboration.
We do what we do at Simon Solutions so organizations have the tools and technology they need to work together to tackle things like generational poverty, human trafficking, and community health. We want to especially help the church to “roll up their sleeves” and get busy at maximizing the collective caring power of their community AND promoting and employing transformational practices and processes.
It is not enough to help people. We want to be a part of their transformation, helping them to advance and prosper. King David was also right when he declared, “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall!” – Psalm 18
by Mike Simon Founder & President of Simon Solutions
We are excited to have Mike Simon as one of our 2017 SATtalk Presenters. Join us October 19-20 in Kansas City.
Simon Solutions provides thousands of helping organizations with the technology necessary to work together. Their cloud-based CharityTracker and Oasis Insight tools give organizations the ability to share assistance records and information with one another instantaneously and build well-connected care networks that can tackle more and more complex problems over time. They are currently working in over 1,100 cities across the country.