From mid-2006 through 2007, the Calvin College Center for Social Research, the Grand Valley State University Community Research Institute, and the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation conducted a comprehensive study of Kent County religious congregations. The study had four purposes:
(1) to document the social and educational services that Kent County congregations actually provide; (2) to collect demographic and contextual information about religious leaders, congregations, and their civic and community engagement; (3) to facilitate comparison of Kent County to the nation; and (4) to estimate the “replacement value” of the top three social or educational services provided by each congregation.
In November 2008, they produced a report: Gatherings of Hope: How Religious Congregations Contribute to the Quality of Life in Kent County. This recommendation sums it up:
“As gatherings of hope, religious congregations have a major role to play in improving the lives of children and families in Kent County. Without the spiritual and material assistance that congregations offer-and will continue to provide in the years ahead-many vulnerable people might not survive. By finding ways to enhance the leadership and organizational capacity of its congregations, a most valuable asset, Kent County can advance the future health and well-being of its residents.”
The mission of Gatherings of Hope is to strengthen the capacity of local churches to help children and families succeed in school, work, and life.
We want to forge connections:
These connections fuel all our initiatives and our attitude towards our work. There is so much wisdom in our community, so much desire to make a difference, but also so many overwhelmed and struggling congregations. We partner with churches and learning institutions to strengthen congregations, to inspire healthy families, and to forge learning communities that can support each other even after GoH’s formal involvement may be over.
A list of all our partners would run to over a hundred names-glorious, but too long. Here are some highlights:
If we drew a map that not only pinpointed our partner churches, but also drew lines between them and the schools and community organizations they partner with, we'd see a web that is growing to cover the entire city of Grand Rapids and its surrounding suburbs-the more the connections, the stronger and more flexible the web.