Bridges of Love NW is different and not easy to define and articulate to others in a few words. Often people think they understand what Bridges of Love NW is after hearing a little about it. Often they do not understand. In order to help people better grasp why Bridges of Love NW is different from other ministries, Bridges of Love NW has identified 10 areas that define what Bridges of Love NW is and why we are different. They help define who we are and the way we operate. How other organizations do their ministry is valid and valuable, and we honor that, but we do ministry differently because we are called to do it differently. These 10 areas are our non-negotiable differences and we call them our Missional Integrity Key Indicators. All Bridges of Love NW affiliates must exhibit these characteristics in order to be part of the Bridges of Love NW Movement. They ensure that the integrity of the vision, mission and core values of Bridges of Love NW are maintained throughout the Movement.
Bridges of Love NW is an explicitly Christian organization and ministry. All churches participating in the network of local churches comprising a Bridges of Love NW affiliate must be Christian as defined traditionally and historically by Christians over the centuries. All staff, board and volunteers of a Bridges of Love NW affiliate must be professing Christians willing to agree to the Apostles’ Creed, as it has been interpreted historically and traditionally by Christians.
Bridges of Love NW believes in showing the unity of the Body of Christ to the world through local churches working together to address needs in their community. This unity is about unity of purpose – showing the Love of Christ to a hurting world – not about unity of theology. Within the parameters of being Christian, as traditionally and historically defined, all Christian churches within a community are welcome to participate in the Bridges of Love NW network. However, that participation requires each church and each volunteer to be gracious to every other church and volunteer and park their theological and social stances at the door. When involved in Bridges of Love NW, we are united in our purpose of serving and ministering to those in need in the community and do not allow theological or social debates to distract from this unity of purpose. The people we serve are watching us; let them see our care, not our contentions.
One of the most valuable Kingdom resources we have is prayer. Prayer is integral to who we are and permeates everything we do. Nothing should be initiated without praying first. All Bridges of Love NW meetings should open with prayer. All Bridges of Love NW clients should be prayed for (and with if they desire it.) Each workday should start with prayer. As the Apostle Paul said; pray without ceasing.
Bridges of Love NW is a partnership of churches, not a partnership with churches. Bridges of Love NW does not and cannot exist without the churches of the community being actively involved. A Bridges of Love NW affiliate is only created when local churches in a community come together to initiate the process. And a Bridges of Love NW affiliate ceases to be a Bridges of Love NW when local churches are no longer actively involved. Bridges of Love NW is church driven and exists only to aid the churches in mobilizing their members to service. Bridges of Love NW exists to serve the church; the church does not exist to serve Bridges of Love NW.
Just as Bridges of Love NW cannot exist without local churches, clients cannot be served without church volunteers. Bridges of Love NW’s role is to help churches mobilize their members to live out their faith through service to those in need in their communities. Bridges of Love NW staff should not be serving clients – church volunteers should be serving clients. When Bridges of Love NW staff starts delivering services, Bridges of Love NW ceases to be Bridges of Love NW and becomes just another social services agency or para-church ministry.
Bridges of Love NW is about building relationships with clients and treating them with dignity as creations of God, made in the image of God, and having value and worth to God. Our goal is not to just address a perceived need in a transactional fashion, but to take the time to enter into relationship with those we serve in order to understand the real needs of the client, build a trusting relationship with the client, and allow the Holy Spirit to work through the church volunteers to initiate both physical and spiritual transformation. This means we take the time to understand the client’s situation and needs, include them in the solution to their need, and always treat them as image bearers of God, their creator.
Bridges of Love NW is about providing a hand up and not just a hand out. Although there is a time and place for providing hand outs (for example in crisis and disaster relief situations), Bridges of Love NW is not a crisis intervention or disaster relief ministry. Bridges of Love NW’s primary focus is helping the church transform people’s lives (physically and spiritually) so they can break the dependency cycle they are in. We seek to engage and hold accountable people receiving help, and work with them to strengthen the assets they have and develop new ones that allow them to break the cycle of poverty and dependency they find themselves in. We call this developmental compassion (as opposed to the traditional charity compassion so prevalent in our society today.) As a result, direct financial aid to clients (charity, with little or no relationship) is not a significant component of our ministry.
Bridges of Love NW’s foundational ministry is the clearinghouse model, where requests for assistance are received, assessed, referred to the most appropriate resource, and followed up on. All additional ministry modes are built upon the systems and information contained in the clearinghouse model. The clearinghouse is central to (and the center of) how Bridges of Love NW functions. It is the fundamental ministry that touches and coordinates all other ministries.
Bridges of Love NW exists to mobilize the church, so the church (through its volunteers and ministries) can transform lives and communities in the name of Christ. Bridges of Love NW’s mission is to mobilize the church, but the ultimate goal is the transformation of the individual, the family, and the community. Transformation involves both a physical component and a spiritual component. It is not just about changing an individual’s or family’s physical circumstances, but also about awakening in them (through the Holy Spirit working through Christians) a sense of the depth of their spiritual need for Christ.