Faith Formation and Engagement

These words of Jesus provide inspiration and guidance to the people who work at Agape: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

CLICK TO JOIN US FOR 365 DAYS OF PRAYER!

About

Everybody needs hope to thrive, including those we walk alongside to alleviate poverty. Those who serve with Agape Child & Family Services, know the greatest hope is found in the promises God has given us in His Word through Jesus Christ. Agape Child & Family Services formalized its Faith Formation and Engagement (FFE) ministry in 2017 to intensify its efforts of strategically integrating faith into its programs and services. The FFE ministry, led by Chief Spiritual Health Officer Pastor Dan Henley, has dedicated staff who serve as community-based chaplains to bring hope to those we serve. Agape also partners with churches which operate as hubs where programs and services are offered, and trains church members to work as volunteers with youth and families through Agape’s programs and services.

The Faith Formation and Engagement (FFE) Ministry forms intentional partnerships with over 50 area churches to bring faith to families and families to faith, as well as to provide assistance to under-resourced churches in underserved communities.

The FFE model makes several distinctions among the congregations with which Agape partners. These partnerships with the faith community include three broad and somewhat overlapping categories of local congregations:

  • Hub Churches. These congregations serving alongside Agape are located in the heart of the community. Hub Churches can be of any Christian denomination. They host Agape staff who work in the area schools (Stars), apartment complexes (Family Connectors), with Thrive By Five (Kindergarten readiness preparation), and Teamworks (job readiness). Agape programs utilize the facilities of the Hub Church. Through Agape’s relationship with the Hub Church, Agape’s partners also offer their programs at the Hub Church’s facilities. Agape partners with these indigenous churches through a written mutual agreement.
  • Community Churches. Community Churches are often smaller congregations in the immediate geographical area of a Hub Church. They represent a cross-section of denominations. Many of these Community Churches have bi-vocational staff members. These Community Churches provide a spiritual home for people in those neighborhoods who are served by Agape and its partners. Because Community Churches are typically smaller in size, they often offer a limited number of services to the community. Agape works with these Community Churches to help them enhance their services to the neighborhood. Agape augments their programs by referring families and children to their services. Agape also brings a select group of social services offered by Agape’s 100-plus partners to these churches. Hub Churches are also part of the Community Church network since people in the neighborhood being served by Agape and its partners may also attend that Hub Church. Agape also partners with existing neighborhood inter-congregational structures, such as the Church Developers Network.
  • Anchor Churches. Every metropolitan area hosts a number of larger, well-resourced congregations. These congregations may serve the suburbs, or they may be in the same neighborhoods served by Agape. They are set apart from the Hub and Community Churches by the depth of their resources. Out of their resources, Anchor Churches assist Agape and Hub Churches in at least three ways. First, they provide intellectual capital such as theological, advocacy, technological, business and educational expertise through their members. Second, they also provide human capital by motivating and supporting volunteers to work with the Hub Church, Agape and its partners. Third, they provide financial support and influence. They can provide financial capital through direct funding. They also can call on their members who practice kingdom economy in their businesses to work with Agape and the children and families Agape serves. In exceptional cases, Anchor Churches may be located in Agape-served neighborhoods, where they may serve in all three roles, as a Hub Church, a Community Church, and as an Anchor Church.

Agape Child & Family Services’ Faith Formation and Engagement Ministry is funded solely by private funders. No public funding sources are used to conduct faith activities.

  • Agape provides a number of selected staff members with training in spirituality and religious matters. They are called Faith Chaplains and Faith Connectors and others who serve with them. Those being served by Agape will generally be informed about the availability of these staff members. Agape staff will make referrals to these Faith Chaplains and Faith Connectors. These services are free.  No one being served at Agape is required to see a Faith Chaplain or Faith Connector. Agape seeks to create an environment free of any kind of spiritual or religious coercion. Agape creates this environment out of its own spiritual and religious perspectives which state that faith is a matter of individual free will and that any institutional pressure to seek matters of faith is counter to the understanding of faith at Agape.
  • When children and families make spiritual and religious requests to Agape staff which are related to worship or the Gospel, the staff are instructed to refer such requests to the Faith Chaplains, Faith Connectors or personnel in the faith community.
  • Agape provides separate line items in the agency’s budget for matters relating to faith, spirituality and religion in the delivery of social services. These budgeted items are underwritten by private funders. These line items include the salaries, benefits, and administrative assistants for the Faith Chaplains and Faith Connectors and all other employees or consultants contracted to provide spiritual support. They also fund all publications that focus entirely on spiritual, religious and faith matters.
  • Where permitted, government and foundation sources are used to recruit and train volunteers from the faith community. These matters are clearly stated in the grant applications.
  • Agape does not believe that accepting funding from government and secular funders compromises its mission or vision. Agape clearly states to all funders including government and secular funders that it is a Christ-centered agency with a Christ-centered mission.
  • All of these policies are public.
  • Agape has adopted the following definition of spirituality that is widely accepted in social work circles: spirituality refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose in life often expressed in beliefs, values, and traditions.
  • Agape has adopted the following definition of religion that is widely accepted in social work circles: religion is a subset of spirituality which includes a system of beliefs and practices observed by individuals and communities that embraces rituals and worship.
  • Agape holds that spiritual beliefs and religious practices can provide significant resources to families as they seek self-sufficiency, but Agape does not hold that spiritual beliefs and religious practices are an indispensable means of seeking self-sufficiency.
  • Because Agape believes that spiritual beliefs and religious practices can provide significant resources to families as they seek self-sufficiently, Agape by way of announcement makes spiritual and religious resources available to those who are served. All of those resources are available free of charge. No family or child being served has any obligation to participate in those activities. Agape as a matter of policy seeks to create an environment without any sense of spiritual or religious coercion.

    Strategy

    With alignment to Agape’s two-generation (2Gen) poverty-fighting model and in keeping the Church at the center of all faith formation and engagement work, the Faith Formation and Engagement ministry seeks to move people from awareness, to education, to engagement in the areas of healthy relationships, community clinical pastoral education, and Christian Community Development. This is accomplished through the following five strategies:

    • Strengthen and build capacity of families living within targeted neighborhoods by enhancing access to spiritual resources.
    • Promote equity, evidence, and voice by equipping community churches and supporting the Church.
    • Build infrastructure needed to support the delivery of integrated and aligned services for families by equipping Hub, Community, and Anchor churches and supporting the Church Developers Network Integrated family-centered service delivery network.
    • Enhance local community capacity to serve its residents by equipping Hub, Community, and Anchor churches and supporting the Church Developers Network Integrated family-centered service delivery network.
    • Advocate for equitable systemic and institutional policy and practice change.

    Click below or here to view an interactive presentation of the Faith Formation and Engagement ministry’s 2Gen Hub Church model.

    Upcoming Events

    365 Days of Prayer : November 5, 2021 – November 4, 2022 : Reserve your day to pray here.

    Faith Resources

    This group of Memphis area church leaders meets once per month to develop relationships with one another, grow in Christ together through prayer, share best practices for church leadership and discipleship, and work together toward a shared vision of spreading the good news of the Gospel and ministering to the needs of the Memphis community. In addition to meeting as a large group of pastors, we also host monthly community prayer meetings for pastors within targeted geographic areas.

    Click here to visit the Church Developers Network Facebook page.

    Agape Child & Family Services’ Faith Formation and Engagement ministry offers two marriage conferences per year – one for area pastors and marriage ministry leaders, and one that is open to anyone, including those served by Agape’s 2Gen programs and services. The purpose of these conferences is to nurture marriages to the glory of God, enriching the lives and ministries of both church leaders and laypersons. Over 140 marriages have been positively touched by these events.

    Click here to view our marriage conference resources page.

    Many Memphis-area Christian non-profit organizations have adopted a place-based ministry model to serve and disciple families in low-income communities, but there is not currently a network in place for these organizations to collaborate and grow together. Agape Child & Family Services’ Faith Formation and Engagement ministry desires to create and facilitate a local network so like-minded Christian organizations can collaborate, share best practices, and participate in ongoing education and training in Christian Community Development. To launch this effort, the Faith Formation and Engagement ministry will facilitate meetings in Frayser with Methodist Hospital, Christ Community Health Center, Memphis College of Urban Theological Studies, and community churches to discuss how we might partner in creating a network for Christian Community Organizations in Memphis.

    Click here to learn more about the Christian Community Development Association.

    • Agape is a faith-based (or do we say “Christian-based” here) agency and seeks to keep faith in the delivery of social services.
    • Agape’s faith perspective is based on the Bible and parallels the core beliefs of the major Christian faith traditions.
    • This foundation offers several core principles
      1. It insists that all matters of faith rest on the free will of the individual and cannot be coerced.
      2. It holds that the Christian worldview offers significant resources for finding faith, love and hope in life.
      3. It holds that God can do what we find impossible.
      4. It holds to a standard of excellence which demands that we operate with integrity, transparency and in concert with all the conditions dictated by our partners.
    • Agape FFE staff seek to live like Jesus and to provide a model the kind of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment that comes in following Jesus.
    • Agape staff must work in such a way to avoid actions which might be consider risky or might be misunderstood by the general public.
    • The conditions of our partners.
      1. We partner with the federal, state and local government and we abide by the parameters and any restrictions.
      2. We understand the guidelines of Charitable Choice and fully embrace and live them out.

    Faith Testimonies

    Agape’s first hub church partner, the Pursuit of God Church, at one time was directly across the street from an elementary school where Agape children attend and where Agape school-based staff work. A mother of one of these children came to school the week after Thanksgiving. She had just suffered from a traumatic event. Seeing that she was under stress, the school officials called the pastor of the Pursuit of God Church who immediately walked across the street to the school. He brought the family back to the church facility and the church staff reframed the family’s situation within the faith context. After time of Bible reading, prayer, and encouragement, the pastor took the family to another floor of the church building. He introduced them to Agape counselors and staff. Those Agape staff members came alongside the family with wrap around services. They provided the services necessary to move the family to a better place. In the process, they called on several other Agape partners. With the crisis past, the family found resilience, self-sufficiency, and hope. The church provided faith, Agape provided the works, and a family and children found peace.

    Another recent event involved a family with membership at the Pursuit of God Church. Their children were served by Agape. A tragic fire destroyed their home. Thanks to local fire fighters and police, they escaped unharmed. Afterwards they sought solace from their church staff. The church staff ministered to the family, prayed with them, and helped them to see a more hopeful future. Then the church staff led the family to another part of the building to the Agape staff. Agape and its partners including some public institutions were able to provide emergency housing for that night, help in locating a new home, food for the transition, and complete wrap around service. The church provided the faith, Agape and others provided the good works.

    Agape and its partners offered a TeamWorks program at the Pursuit of God Church congregation. Agape and its partners invited a number of businesses in the city to join with them in helping people in the Pursuit of God Church’s neighborhood find employment. One man came to the event. He had served 28 years in prison and had been out of prison for 29 days. He came to the event and left with a job. While there he met members and staff of the Pursuit of God Church. Relationships were built which we hope will bring this man into a local community of faith. Agape and local businesses provided the works. The church is in the process of providing the faith.

    Get Involved