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“New LifeScape” FAQ
*Here are some questions and answers, but the list continues to grow. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have additional questions.
What is a “lifescape”?
We define a lifescape as all of the advantages and assets and the hope or despair that results when a person looks at their life. Most people have a lifescape that is between moderately healthy to healthy. The average person in poverty tends to have an unhealthy lifescape. The lifescape describes their ability to succeed or what they will need to change to succeed. Because the different areas are interrelated, a comprehensive, balanced approach is required!
What is a new “lifescape”?
A new lifescape results when a person becomes proactive and with the help of others changes their lives in order to develop life skills and then join the workforce. For example: A person that cannot read will have limited job options, so they learn to read. A person with mental health issues connects with mental health services in order to identify and address issues.
What is “New LifeScape Ministry”?
It is a not-for-profit organization committed to working with churches, businesses, and mental health professionals to help people get off of the government support systems (welfare, etc.) and become independent working adults.
How did it start?
Steve Thomas and Rick Painter met while working in mental health support. Steve’s background is in business and counseling. Rick’s background is in vocational ministry, non-profits. Discussions about the failure of government solutions and the responsibility of caring for the poor turned into looking for solutions. The conclusion was that it is time to get the church back into helping the poor, not only with providing resources but with a comprehensive, individualized approach.
Aren’t current government and social programs doing this?
No. The government systems are designed to provide minimal resources and when a person makes financial progress, it reduces those resources quickly. Social programs (food banks etc.) teach people to depend on them, not on themselves and results in people becoming dependent. The government approach has now produced the third generation of system dependents.
Wouldn’t more money help the poor?
No. According to a 2012 Senate report, the “average” welfare recipient is receiving approximately $31,000.00 a year in services (through various programs and different government channels). The American median income was $26,000.00. Teaching someone to be dependent is like patting them on the head and saying “poor thing, you just can’t do any better so I will take care of you”!
What can churches really do?
First: Adjust their understanding of the “Body of Christ”. It is more than just the local congregation and far more than just keeping the church operational! As the Body of Jesus, we should be doing what He did. He sought the lost, cared for the poor and defended them from abusers. God has custom designed the individual and the church for this method of ministry!
Second: Discover how God has designed you as a congregation or group. Helping someone to break free of poverty requires a lot of skills that are usually not considered ministry skills. The problem is our definition of “ministry”! Having gardeners, hunters, people with food storage skills, etc. are what is needed both for food and for skills training. Having teachers to help with academic skills, construction people to address housing needs, mechanics to keep the car running so they can go to work, etc. are ministry skills! The list is as endless as the needs. The church is a network so that what your church may not have, someone else does!
Third: Get outside training to be “experts” in some fields. Training will be conducted by New LifeScape staff such as de-escalation techniques, identifying potential mental illnesses and substance abuse, etc. New LifeScape will also be developing training and certification agreements with various other organizations to improve the specific skills of church members to help them better face the challenge.
Fourth: Contribute to the overall expenses of the organization and the mental health services element. Supporting churches will have Christian mental health professionals available to them for reference, counseling, and education. As a pastor, one of the hardest things to do is to get someone with a mental disorder (suicidal, depression, substance abuse, etc.) to actually meet with a counselor. With New LifeScape, it will be easier for the pastor to connect people with a professional counselor because the pastor, church, and maybe even the counselee will already know the counselor. However, because these are professionals who want to be available to the local church, it requires their time and expenses (gas, insurance, licensure, etc.) are covered.
Why do we need the mental health aspect?
Becoming independent is almost impossible to do on your own if you have a mental illness. Even if you are given a job, if you get too depressed to go, you will lose it. If you are struggling with anger issues, you may have or will have a negative job history. Mental health counseling, even from a Christian basis, is different from pastoral counseling.
Can’t the pastor provide the counseling?
There is a difference between pastoral counseling and mental health counseling. The role of the pastor is to provide spiritual counsel to lead someone into a closer walk with Jesus. It can address many of the emotional struggles, relationship challenges, and spiritual issues, but if the issues are things like clinical depression, substance abuse, PTSD, or mental illness, the pastor needs other professionals to address them. If not, the pastor can spend most of his time trying to help just a few people and make very little progress. The professional counselor is trained in diagnosis and treatment of such issues including treatment modalities and medications. There are also potential legal repercussions if the pastor goes beyond his training and something goes wrong. New LifeScape provides training in the basics to pastors, deacons, etc. because they are frequently the first to encounter issues such as domestic violence, PTSD, substance abuse, and mental illness. NLS will also help provide counseling and other professional support.
How will participants be discovered?
New LifeScape will assist in marketing in your area to let the general public know about the program. That will include connecting the organization’s online presence with your local church or other related websites in addition to other marketing efforts. We will also be distributing information through other Christian social ministries, such as food pantries, clothing closets, etc.
What will the overall process be?
New LifeScape will provide an assessment process, including a mental health assessment and meet with church representatives to identify areas of need and develop an “action plan”. The approach is entirely custom fit to the participant’s lifescape and needs. Those needs may include substance abuse treatment support, financial counseling, computer skills training, job application skills, job training, development of a positive job history, etc
Does an average church have the resources required to participate?
Yes! In the “average church” there is a wide range of interests, skills, and resources. God has placed them there to enable any church to impact its community, but many of those skills are untapped. If a participant is wasting money on prepared food, having them work with a good cook can help them improve their health, save money, and gain confidence. If they need a car to get to and from their new job, having someone that is skilled in buying good cheap cars or in repairing cars can be a major ministry asset. Part of New LifeScapes work will be to help the church discover these new ministries.
What is “wrap around support”?
By combining all elements of the action plan through a team approach, the goal is to meet all the challenges a person is facing when they want to become more independent. The “wrap around” includes mental health support, job training, spiritual equipping, life skills, etc. The team approach also builds in accountability and friendship, which is lacking in the government model.
Is New LifeScape funded by the government?
No. Our experience has been that the government requires that everyone they fund operate by their standards and policies. Many of these policies are part of the problem.
Will a participant have to go off the government program in order to participate?
No. Those programs were originally designed to be temporary, so using them on that basis is appropriate. Proper training, encouragement, and assistance (groceries, etc.) will help the participant as they progress to the point of no longer needing or qualifying for government help.
What if someone is non-compliant or wants to “loophole” the action plan?
One problem with the current government system is “loopholes ( i.e.- A person can receive VIEW funding (extra income) but be exempted from the volunteer/work requirement). Loopholes teach people to manipulate. A participant will be required to honestly participate or to make room for others who will. The team approach will improve communication and help keep each other up to date on efforts, progress, and compliance. After a great deal of grace, forgiveness, and interventions, the team can choose to end services. This will be clearly explained during the enrollment stage and agreed upon by the participant.
Isn’t removing someone from the program for being “non-compliant”, being judgmental or unloving?
Non compliant means not doing their part. If a participant has agreed to a substance recovery program but doesn’t participate, they are non-compliant. If they are in a job search and continue to give excuses or choose not to work, they are non-compliant. Holding them accountable for their choices is treating them like adults instead of helpless or incompetent children. Many in poverty have been taught that they cannot really change their life. “Learned helplessness” traps people into actually believing that they can’t really do better, that they need others to care and provide for them. It teaches them to see themselves as unable to deal with failure or to even be held accountable. We hope that eventually, they will learn that they can break free. Then (and only then) we can help them do so!
How will the organization continue funding?
As a non-profit, it will be supported mainly through contributions and grants. We hope businesses and individuals will see the value and contribute on a regular basis. (REMEMBER: Each family we get off the system will result in an approximate taxpayer savings of $36,000.00 per year for every year they stay off the system!) We also ask supporting churches to contribute regularly to cover administrative costs and time spent with the local church in development and training. A third source of income is that some counselors will be able to bill insurance for work.
Aren’t alcoholism and drug addiction genetic?
No. The genetic link does not dictate that a person will be addicted. Without specific genetic testing of that specific person and providing that “answer” to an individual is completely unfounded. Current addiction research indicates that having a strong, engaging social environment can dramatically impact success rates. The church can provide that supportive environment while God works through the Holy Spirit and treatment specialists (counselors).
What is a “participating church”?
Because this approach requires a church body, not just a few people, a church must choose to be a participating church. We ask churches to enter into a partnership with “New LifeScape” in order to facilitate communication, networking for resources, and the mental health support components. This partnership requires “New LifeScape” staff and resources, so there is a financial commitment to help us be available and to have resources to use.
Can’t a church or group of churches develop this program without “New LifeScape”?
Of course, but doing so requires the church to have mental health professionals, social workers, and many others involved. Duplicating only parts of the approach will increase failure rates. significantly decrease success. If you addresses the issues (education, getting a job, managing their resources, getting reliable transportation to work, etc.) but not underlying depression, anger, or substance abuse, they will likely cause more harm to the participant than good.
What if there are mental health professionals in our church who are willing to help?
A major concern is the type of counseling they provide. Just because the counselor is a Christian, or their degree is from a Christian school, it does not guarantee that their counseling is Christian counseling. There are differences.