These articles are meant to strengthen the capacity of all faith-based organizations to live out their faith-based missions. If you are already a Sacred Sector participant, log into the Participant Portal to access the toolbox resources. If your organization is interested in becoming a Sacred Sector participant, click here.
Recent headlines about churches accepting public funds for historic preservation have reignited the public debate about church-state separation. Though not expressly established in the Constitution, the separation of church and state is a value many Americans affirm. Yet this value can also have negative consequences; it tends to enforce the idea that church and state are fundamentally at odds, and that church-state collaborations ultimately undermine the integrity of one institution or the other. However, in reality, when faith-based organizations such as churches and nonprofits choose to partner with government it can benefit the organization, the government and the common good.
Government partnerships are not the best choice for every faith-based organization. Nevertheless, faith-based organizations should be made aware of their right to collaborate with government — which includes the right to accept government funds — and should carefully consider whether such partnerships can further their sacred mission.
Sacred Sector Participant Exodus Treatment Center is a faith-based organization with many strategic government and non-government partnerships. By consistently living out its sacred mission through its organizational practices, Exodus demonstrates how faith-based organizations can engage in a wide variety of collaborations without compromising their faith identity.
Exodus Treatment Center is a faith-based nonprofit that provides mental health services, substance abuse/addiction intervention and recovery support services for at-risk individuals throughout D.C. Pastor Gary Hill, Director of Exodus Treatment Center, founded the organization in 2007 out of his desire to serve God and His people through quality treatment services and community engagement.
Sacred Sector provides resources to empower faith-based organizations such as Exodus Treatment Center to live out their sacred mission. One resource, the Government Partnerships Public Policy Toolbox, says:
Typically, FBOs are eligible to compete for government grants and contracts on an equal footing with secular organizations without abandoning their religious character. As a general rule these days, government creates partnerships with FBOs based on the effectiveness and quality of their services without requiring these organizations to surrender their distinctive, religiously-based contributions to the public good.
The faith-based initiative is a federal program that cultivates partnerships between federal agencies and faith-based organizations. The program — in addition to other federal policies such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — also safeguards faith-based organizations’ rights to have equal opportunity for government funding as secular organizations.
For more information on the rights of faith-based organizations to partner with government, see the Government Partnerships Public Policy Toolbox.
To help organizations strengthen their internal practices, Sacred Sector provides access to resources from Standards for Excellence®, a national initiative that promotes ethical practices and accountability for nonprofit organizations. Their Education Packet on Strategic Partnerships packet says,
Nonprofits should evaluate potential partnerships in terms of their own mission, internal goals and the desired results of their strategic plan. Organizations should be able to identify and effectively communicate the specific need and reasons for the partnership.
Exodus Treatment Center takes advantage of opportunities for innovative partnerships. All the while, Exodus ensures that its partnerships embody its sacred mission.
One example of this is Exodus’ non-financial partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). Officers come to read to students in Exodus’ homework club on a regular basis. Pastor Hill said, “Our goal is to bring the police in the community to knock down some of the stigmas that the police are bad guys. There are police doing good police work and they really care about the community. Sometimes our communities don’t get to have a positive relationship with police officers and residents can be misguided about their thoughts about them. But because this is a safe haven for the kids, we want to welcome the police here.” Facilitating relationships with the MPD is an outgrowth of Exodus’ faith-identity and desire to promote harmony and reconciliation in the community.
In addition to empowering students through its partnership with the MPD, Exodus also empowers students through its collaboration with a nonprofit, Urban Institute. This partnership allows Exodus to promote preventive adolescent safe sexual practices for students ages 13 through 19. The program includes education about sexuality, sexual abuse, physical hygiene and clinical support.
“We’ve opened our hearts, our minds, and our doors, and we come forth with information in terms of what’s safe and what’s not safe,” said Pastor Hill. “We feel like the church should be at the table and should be involved in these conversations and listen to the issues that are taking place with our young people and be able to come alongside them.”
These are a just a few of the many collaborations Exodus engages in to strengthen its ministry. By maintaining its distinct, faith-based identity throughout its partnerships, Exodus Treatment Center exhibits how faith-based organizations can broaden their impact and live out their sacred missions through strategic partnerships. For more information about government or strategic partnerships, see the Government Partnerships Organizational Practices Toolbox and the Standards for Excellence® Education Packet on Strategic Partnerships.
Although there are times when faith and government should remain distinct, faith-based organizations can often both further their own missions and assist government through government partnerships. Because government can be far removed from local challenges, working with faith-based organizations is a key way for government to meet unique community needs. At the same time, working with government empowers faith-based organizations to extend the impact of their ministry through added funding and influence. Faith-based organizations can also strengthen or diversify the services they offer through strategic partnerships with non-government organizations. Altogether, Exodus Treatment Center exhibits how faith-based organizations can transform communities through innovative partnerships with both government and non-government entities.
If you are not a Sacred Sector participant and would like access to resources on public policy, organizational practices and public positioning for faith-based organizations, sign up to become a Sacred Sector participant here.
Kathryn Mae Post is an intern with the Center for Public Justice (CPJ). She contributes to two different initiatives at CPJ: Sacred Sector and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance (IRFA). She is graduating from Calvin College in May of 2018 with a BA in both political science and English.