Working with Refugees, Stage 2: Found a Faith-Based Ministry

female volunteer posing with refugees she is teaching

Stage 1 of working with refugees is getting to know them by talking to and listening to them. Once you’ve done this, it is time to move to stage 2—founding a faith-based ministry to refugees.

So what does it take to establish a ministry to help refugees? Do you use common organizational tools such as a mission statement, goals, objectives, actions, and steps? Why is it useful to write these? Will the ministry be a nongovernmental organization (NGO) or a nonprofit organization (NPO)? Recognize that this stage, like all other stages, must be bathed in prayer—before, during, and after.

Prayer

As you seek to establish a faith-based NGO or NPO or even be involved with refugees in some way, prayer must be paramount to make certain you follow God’s will for the vision He has placed within your heart. When establishing any work for God, continual communion with Him for His guidance on founding the ministry is necessary to ensure the vision remains before you. Ongoing communion with God helps you determine and stay within His goals for refugee work. Additionally, it ensures the mission statement reflects His intentions. As you seek to realize which services/ministries to offer refugees, you must seek God to make sure you are following His plan.

NGO or NPO?

Before establishing a charitable organization, you must decide if it will be national/local or international in scope. If the scope will be international, an NGO would be the charitable organization most likely needed for the work. An NGO may receive government-raised funding and funds from the private sector. Its board members are volunteers who have no affiliation with governments. An NGO operates independently from any government entity. It provides services to communities through analysis, expertise, and advocacy for the people. A few services NGOs offer are health education, managing health crises, and tackling environmental issues. Some NGOs are for-profit corporations, but most are nonprofit organizations.

An NPO seeks to help people in its local (city, county, or state) or national community. NPOs have a specific mission to achieve. They hire management personnel and aim to raise substantial funds through endowments and donations. NPOs do not seek to make a profit, and any profits made from investments go into operations, not to members, directors, or officers. Most NPOs are tax exempt and possess legal responsibilities that include reporting income and expenses through accurate accounting processes and auditing, along with supervision and management. Services NPOs offer are charitable, religious, educational, preventative, and scientific.

With prayer, God-given vision, understanding of refugees, decisions about the scope of the organization, and the base from which you want to secure your financial support, you can decide which organizational structure best serves the people to whom you seek to minister. If you want your faith-based ministry to be separate from government influence, an NGO and NPO are both suitable for your organization. If your ministry will deal specifically with local or national issues, an NPO is more suitable for your organization. If your organization wants to redistribute profits to leaders, members, board members, or shareholders, an NGO is the right organizational structure for your ministry. If your faith-based ministry wants to ensure no part of government dictates how you can use funding, an NPO with a specific funding policy would be best.

Prayer

Seek the Lord’s guidance about which organizational structure your faith-based ministry to refugees should follow—NGO or NPO. Ask His will for the organizational structure of your ministry. You have good ideas about your ministry, but God knows best which organizational form will enable this ministry to grow and be strong for the task He has ordained.

Mission Statement

What is a mission statement, and why does the ministry need one? Do NGOs and NPOs need mission statements? Are they only for for-profit organizations? The answer to the former question answers the latter questions. A mission statement is a brief description of an organization’s principal purpose for its workers and recipients, as well as outsiders, to understand and follow. To be clear, the mission statement describes what the organization does and how and why it does it. All forms of organizations need mission statements. A ministry without a mission statement is like a driver with no purpose for being in the car.

Let’s take a closer look. God gave you a clear vision to work with refugees. As you became acquainted with the refugees, you discovered their primary needs: language acquisition and document obtainment, along with accommodation and food procurement. Perhaps when you prayed for their needs, God showed you most of the refugees had a place to live but they had no way to get jobs since they did not speak the language. Without jobs, they could not pay rent, buy food or clothes, or pay for transportation to get their asylum-seeker or refugee documents. Prayerfully you decide the most needed ministry now is teaching English as a second language and then helping with other things as financial backing increases for the ministry. The organization will also be a resource connector and lead the refugees to the correct person or organization to help them with other needs like food, clothes, rent money, document assistance, etc.

The mission statement for this NPO would be something like this: XYZ Refugee Care Center shares the love of Christ and provides practical help to newly arrived refugees in the city of Toledo by teaching English as a second language and being a resource connector and provider. It offers these services as a testimony and in obedience to Jesus Christ to follow Him, share the gospel, baptize believers, make disciples, and love our neighbors as ourselves. To be more succinct, this mission statement could say the following: The XYZ Refugee Care Center provides practical help to newly arrived refugees in Toledo by teaching English as a second language and being a resource connector and provider as a testimony of Jesus’ love for all people. Both mission statements answer the questions: What does your organization do? How will it do it? Why will it do it?

Adapted from “Inception: Working with Refugees, Stage Two: Founding a Faith-Based Ministry to Refugees” by Gail Davis with permission 

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