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Tenth Memorial Baptist Church: Effective Ministry Partnerships

Tenth Memorial Baptist Church: Effective Ministry Partnerships

"Whenever you partner with anybody, make sure that their mission and their objective complement yours, so that you don't get absorbed or side-tracked by what somebody else wants to do," advises Rev. Bill Moore. This is particularly essential when churches undertake to collaborate with government.

Guided by a strong ministry vision, Tenth Memorial Baptist Church has been navigating public-private partnerships for the rebuilding of the church's inner city community. In accord with Rev. Moore's belief that "the church is to be a change agent," Tenth Memorial has provided leadership for several extensive community development projects with the support of government funds. "Members of congregations are tax payers, and so we have fashioned a way to leverage those dollars." says Rev. Moore. "Churches should not be intimidated to do that."

The first major project was Moore Manor, a 60-unit apartment building for low-income seniors, down the street from the church. In order to work with the federal government on this initiative, the church created the 10th Memorial Non-Profit Development Corporation. When the church decided to tackle the problem of deteriorating housing in its neighborhood, taking advantage of Empowerment Zone funds, it launched a second nonprofit as the administrative conduit for a construction and first-time home buyers program. This nonprofit, Master Street 2000, represents "a marriage between 10th Memorial Non-Profit Development Corporation and the City of Philadelphia," with the motto: "Building our future."

Though not explicitly religious, the nonprofits are linked to the church through their leadership. Rev. Moore serves as president of both nonprofits, and the majority of both boards are members of Tenth Memorial. By constitution, the chairs of Tenth's trustee and deacon boards, the church treasurer, and the pastor all have to be nonprofit board members as well. Both boards also include community representatives, such as a minister from another local church.

While the involvement of secular partners limits explicit evangelism in the community development projects, the church proclaims the gospel to the neighborhood through other ministries, such as their S.W.A.T. (Saints With A Testimony) teams. Rev. Moore contends, "People need to hear the Good News, but they also need to see it." A row of ten new homes across the street from the church, their neat yards contrasting with the crumbling housing stock all around, indeed provides visible testimony to God's love in action.

Another example of church-state collaboration is the church's "adoption" of a nearby public school. To celebrate the adoption of Vaux Middle School in the early 1990s, Tenth Memorial held a special worship service and invited the teachers and some of the students over for a meal. The church helped out at first in small ways - transporting students to the health clinic and to chess tournaments, providing funds for graduation gowns. When the heat went out in the school, the church opened its classrooms and fellowship hall.

Then the principal of Vaux Middle School called the church to see if they could do anything about the increasing problem of crime and violence among students before and after school. Fights and thefts had become common. Tenth responded by designing the Safe Corridors program, which posted volunteers in orange shirts and hats carrying walkie-talkies on every other corner along the main walking routes to the school. The success of the program caught the attention of President Clinton, who talked about Safe Corridors at the signing of the Brady Bill. Eventually, Safe Corridors so cut down on violence that the church decided it was no longer needed. As an outgrowth of the success of this collaboration, Tenth Memorial's pastor, Rev. Bill Moore, joined the board of the school's Family Life Center, which addresses parenting skills and other family issues.

Tenth Memorial broadened the circle of collaboration by hosting a gathering on education with participation from parents and educators from local private and public schools, including Vaux. The group discussed common interests and concerns, with the goal of exploring new ways to work together in improving educational services and advocating for more resources.

[chap. 11, pp. 236, 241-42]