Image courtesy NorthWestGifts.com
Image courtesy NorthWestGifts.com
by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
The mothers often arrive to our homes without a social safety net. Many have burned bridges in their relationships, or are coming from a history of deep dysfunction.
In addition to all of the other skills we encourage, such as life skills, educational attainment, and parenting strategies, maternity homes are meant to model and teach relationship. In our example and structures, homes invite the moms into regular, healthy interactions.
Beyond the high-drama, over-sharing, or closed-off habits, we invite the moms to build a network of genuine friendships.
We are inviting them into community.
With that said, the big question becomes "How?" Here's a few practical brainstorms to consider!
Goal: Use the physical space to encourage people to interact.
Goal: From the very first moment she arrives, welcome the mom as a true member in the home.
Goal: Build a relational aspect into every part of your structure.
Goal: Have anyone within the home embrace a culture of belonging.
I call it, "we are the world" love.
It's a slightly sarcastic way to describe the love that brings together a lot of different people with different ideas around a noble purpose, but it lasts just long enough to sing a song.
As we know too well, real love, the kind of love that brings deep and lasting unity, only happens when people start bumping into one another. And, although they may feel a little bruised, love starts when individuals choose to listen, to forgive, to seek understanding, to communicate better, to try again. Part of the joy of being a Coalition of maternity housing providers is in the variety of perspectives that are included. We are unified in our common work of offering housing to pregnant women, but we differ on many other issues: staffing models, doctrinal nuances, and length of stay, just to name a few.
Because our work as maternity home providers often involves deep personal sacrifice, it is easy for us to bring passion and investment to the conversation. As we begin the work of building the National Maternity Housing Coalition, we may bump into each other just a bit. But as this happens, we have several things on our side. First is the wisdom acquired from 42 years of holding various works and perspectives together within the same organization. Heartbeat International has been a leader is choosing the difficult but rewarding path of unity amid diversity. Heartbeat has seen again and again that we truly are "better together."
Second, there is the palpable sense of possibility in our work. Whenever leaders from homes are talking to one another, the ideas start flying. In addition, there are deep rumblings of movement in the arena of housing—more interest in starting homes, new programs under discussion, and deeper connection to the pro-life movement. More, new, deeper...all are rumblings of movement.
Finally, we cling to our God who values unity so deeply that He expresses Himself as a union of persons. It is our God, a living unity, who teaches us and gives us the grace to be forgiving, merciful, generous, and kind when we bump into one another.
Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, wrote a simple yet profound book about his work with gang members, “Tattoos on the Heart”.
It’s an impressive story for a variety of reasons, but the chapter entitled, “Success” speaks to any ministry leader who deeply shares life with people. In it, he writes:
Success and failure, ultimately, have little to do with living the gospel. …Jesus was always too busy being faithful to worry about success. I’m not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones. (p.172, 178)
We are all seeking results for our labors, longing for moms to know profound and lasting transformation in their lives…and many times, we get to see incredible successes. But, not always.
Sometimes, we give without ever knowing the impact we will have. Other times, we watch as women make painfully destructive decisions about their future.
In your work as a maternity home leader, you have been called to be faithful to the task of welcoming the stranger…the women standing at the door in need of a loving place. She may arrive bad-mouthing, attention-seeking, closed-off, or beaten-down.
But, regardless of appearance, she is Christ before you in wonderful disguise. In welcoming her into the embrace of your home and your heart, you are living out the gospel…whether you “succeed” or “fail.”
Over 330 homes exist in the US! Our goal is to unify the work of homes across the country so that we can strengthen our programs and better communicate the important role that maternity housing programs play in supporting pregnant women.
NMHC’s Mission Statement: We inspire excellence among maternity housing providers and articulate a collective voice to advance the culture of life and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do this by providing training and tools, facilitating an exchange of knowledge and experience, and fostering fellowship among members.
“The power of the Coalition is in providing a unified voice to amplify our message of hope to pregnant women who are in need of support,” said Chris Bell, long-time Executive Director of Good Counsel Homes and founding member of the National Maternity Housing Coalition. “In our work of building a culture of life, we need to leverage our voices.”
When asked about the goal of the Coalition, Mary Peterson, founder of Maggie’s Pace notes, “The work of maternity homes has been around for a long time, but the challenges of women now are quite complicated involving addiction, abuse, trauma, and lack of support. In order to be more effective in our work, we need to learn from another.”
“What a great win-win situation to be partnering with Heartbeat,” affirmed Gloria Lee. As a long-term director of Our Lady’s Inn, Gloria has been involved with Heartbeat for many years. “Heartbeat’s mission of building up the capacity of life-affirming ministries is a perfect fit with the direction of the National Maternity Housing Coalition.”
For additional information, contact:
Maternity housing programs are a special part of the spectrum of services offered by pregnancy help organizations. Heartbeat is delighted that you are considering this ministry. The Scriptures are very clear that we must help those in need by meeting their needs.
For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in (Matthew 25:35 NASB).
We are seeing homes develop independently as well as in partnership with other pregnancy help organizations.
It is important to lay a good foundation in every ministry and this is certainly true for a housing ministry. This work requires great faith and strength and planning. Below are a few things to initially consider.
1. Gather data and information on the needs in your community. Talk to other ministry leaders and understand their perceptions of “gaps in services.” Have a solid understanding of the existing resources in your area. Gather research on unique factors that affect your community. This information will both inform your vision and help make a case for future donors.
2. Begin to write down your vision and how you see it unfolding. Be as specific as possible.
Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets,that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time;it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:2-3 NASB).
3. Make plans to visit existing programs. See what other housing ministry locations and programs may be in existence already by visiting the Worldwide Directory. Just type in your city or zip code and it will show you the life-affirming organizations that already exist in your area. To focus on housing organizations, use the Directory Code “Housing.”
4. Look for a small group of people to work with you as you plan. It is often a small group of key visionaries (sometimes called a Founding Committee) who set the cornerstones of the vision in place, recognizing that changes will be made along the way. Eventually, these people could be the beginning of your Board.
5. Be aware of the regulations that govern the work. In the US, a 501(c)3 and/or fiscal agent relationship is necessary to receive tax-deductible gifts. Understand state-level guidelines that impact housing organizations. Research the city-level regulations related to being a “group home” or having a “special use permit.”
6. Start working on a budget. Initial resources may be thought of as Seed Money (funding to begin the ministry) or Capital (funding for purchase of large ticket items like a property, vehicle, computer network, etc). Over time, you will prepare an Operating Budget to outline the annual expense of running the ministry. As needed, begin learning about fundraising strategies and create a fundraising plan.
We look forward to walking with you as you begin this journey. Housing is a beautifully messy ministry filled with life-changing relationships. It is your opportunity to change the life of others…and be changed in the process! Welcome to the maternity housing community!
We pray God’s blessing on you as you consider this very important ministry of the pro-life community.
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