The Saint Francis Foundation
Pray Then Get Your Hands Dirty
Although not comprehensive, this phrase is a reasonable summary of Jesus’ work in the Gospels. In his ministry of healing, Jesus spits and rubs dirt on the eyes of a blind man to restore sight. He kneels to wash the dust from the travel-weary feet of his disciples. He touches lepers to heal their skin lesions.
In many gospel stories, Jesus is hands-on in how he addresses peoples’ needs. He's not afraid to get his hands dirty. Likewise, Saint Francis Community Services, a multi-faceted ministry serving over thirty thousand people in multiple states and countries, is dedicated to addressing the needs of families and children through foster and adoptive family support, migration ministries, art and storytelling therapeutic ministries, equine therapy, residential homes for young victims of sex trafficking, summer camps, and vocational support for developmentally disabled adults. Rooted strongly in the Episcopalian tradition, the mission of Saint Francis Community Services focuses on protecting, nurturing, and healing children and families in body, mind, and spirit. Yet none of these transformative hands-on ministries would be possible without the equally important hands-on work of The Saint Francis Foundation.
The Saint Francis Foundation, a separate 501(c)(3) which was formed a little over two years ago, serves as a separate fund-raising organization for Saint Francis Community Services ministries. The fund-raising foundation was formed after a period of intentional self-reflection, during which leadership realized that seasons of “being and doing” had left them very internally focused as an organization. In order to re-engage with the denomination and others across the church, and to promote the extent, expertise, and depth of their ministries and resources, The Saint Francis Foundation was launched. By forming an organization focused exclusively on fund-raising, they were able to both diversify their revenue as well as expand their opportunities to advise and mentor similar organizations across the church. While not a grant-making organization, in addition to fund-raising, The Saint Francis Foundation works to establish relationships across which expertise and resources can be shared, and ministry initiatives can be sustained
Having reconfigured the two organizations according to their unique purposes, the next challenge was how to convey these different but equally critical organizational stories to the world.
Pray Then Get Your Hands Dirty
Working with a local Kansas marketing firm, they eschewed the predictable soft-focus, gentle messaging approach. Instead, the two organizations jointly issued a gritty, pithy invitation to donors, ministry partners, and service recipients to “Pray Then Get Your Hands Dirty.” Both Saint Francis Community Services and The Saint Francis Foundation embraced this tagline and its companion video as a powerful and punchy summation of their complimentary ministries. They’ve used it to successfully build relationships, engagement, and awareness across the church and to raise the funds critical for their ongoing work.
So what might an individual congregation learn from The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Francis Community Services?
The Very Reverend David Hodges, President of The Saint Francis Foundation, suggests that in times of dwindling resources, it’s easy to become too internally-focused or slide into a maintenance mindset. It’s easy for parishes to lose their sense of mission and to avoid going beyond their own walls to engage in the community.
In supporting and partnering with The Saint Francis Foundation and Saint Frances Community Services, and similar organizations, small churches can make a greater impact by pooling their resources. Furthermore, by utilizing the specialized expertise and staffing Saint Frances Community Services has developed to address complicated circumstances such as those experienced by young people who are victims of sex trafficking, small churches can engage in issues they could not otherwise afford to address.
Secondly, it’s important that churches have a clarity of their mission and vision, and the populations they serve and the context in which they exist. All of the work The Saint Francis Foundation does stems from their articulated mission, vision, beliefs and values, which apply broadly across many contexts, populations and ministries. Separating the support and fund-raising organizational function from the service-providing functions enabled each of these companion organizations to focus on their unique mission yet remain connected through their set of shared values.
Finally, if nothing else, as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, churches certainly could model themselves after Jesus’ own ministry by living into the motto of The Saint Frances Foundation… Pray Then Get Your Hands Dirty.