BIC Foundation releases first funds from new Matching Grant Program for churches doing ministry

—BIC churches eager to launch new community-outreach programs but short on the necessary start-up funds now have an additional option available to them: the 50% Matching Grant for Outreach Initiatives offered by the Brethren in Christ Foundation.

The Foundation, a nonprofit corporation founded more than 30 years ago, provides various BIC denominational entities with a variety of financial services, including loans to local churches looking to finance building purchases and upgrades, and to ministers buying a house. As an extension of its new Ambassadors program, the Foundation initiated the 50% Matching Grant Program earlier this year to assist with direct support of churches’ ministry initiatives.

“We recognize that our churches are struggling more than ever, not only to cover their fixed expenses but to serve the Lord and their communities in new ways,” states Elvin Peifer, CEO of the Foundation. “We hope that the resources provided through the Matching Grant Fund will encourage congregations and enable them to start up new ministries as they are called by God.”

BIC church in Florida receives first funds from Foundation
The first matching grant was awarded this month to a BIC church in Sarasota, Fla., a city whose dependence upon the construction and tourism industries has made it particularly vulnerable to the results of the recession and fears of the Gulf Oil Spill. Community Bible Church (CBC), a small congregation situated in the town, has noticed the hardships faced by its neighbors.

Through the BIC Foundation's new Matching Grant Program, Community Bible Chapel in Sarasota, Fla., raised $5,000 to purchase school supplies for local families struggling to make ends meet.

“Sarasota is especially hurt economically,” observes Mary Woomert, who works in administration at CBC and is the wife of the church’s pastor, Larry Woomert. “This is the third year we’ve offered a School Supply Giveaway. Last year [in 2009], we ran out we had such a huge line.”

So, CBC knew it had to do something different this year.

“Last year, our goal was $2,500 worth of supplies, which we accomplished,” Woomert notes. “We wanted to test our faith this year, which is why we set our goal at $5,000.”

Collecting creatively
To meet this goal, CBC looked for creative ways to raise money from within the church, as well as without. Children in a summer program at the church began a penny drive, which raised $1,008.58, and those who attended Vacation Bible School gave offerings that totaled another $714. The local Food Bank and Census Bureau provided $1,000 dollars worth of supplemental supplies and one company donated 225 bottles of all-natural, chewable vitamins (worth over $2,500) to put in every backpack.

In response to these efforts, the BIC Foundation granted CBC the highest matching amount it offers, $1,000, helping the church to meet its goal of $5,000.

“[The prospect of getting a matching grant from the Foundation] motivated people to give more and to respond by coming out to help pack backpacks,” says Woomert. “And getting the grant of course meant that we could buy additional supplies this year.”

As a result, all the families that came through were able to get the supplies they needed.

Children receive their new school gear. Community Bible Chapel plans to hold another giveaway in January to replenish the students' school supplies.

Woomert recalls, “We had endless amounts of mothers and fathers coming through the line, with tears, telling us that if it wasn’t for us, their children would have started school without anything.”

In fact, the church even had leftover supplies this year, which it plans to donate to a local homeless ministry.

“We’re not a ‘rich’ congregation but our people just respond to needs in the brotherhood,” Woomert notes. “We have gained a reputation in our community as the church that gives out supplies. Now they know we care.”

Community Bible Chapel plans to hold a replenishing giveaway in January to help restock the kids’ backpacks.

Additional grants available to BIC churches
“We’re excited about our Matching Grant Program because it furthers the Foundation’s mission to support local BIC churches and leaders,” comments Peifer. “It’s a great way for the Foundation to help in a tangible way during this time of economic uncertainty.”

All BIC churches are invited to participate in the Matching Grant Program. Visit www.bicfoundation.org/ambas for information on how to apply.