WHO WE SERVE: We work primarily with low-income, disadvantaged families in the Hattiesburg area. Most of our families receive some form of support through welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid. Many are working mothers, but cannot make it on their limited income. If we work with 100 children, one or two may have a biological dad at home. These families face low paying jobs, limited opportunities for education, life in high crime parts of town, and unsafe subsidized housing. In many cases, they are hopeless and do not have the resources, support or skills to move forward in life.
OUR ROLE: Many of us in the United States were blessed to grow up in homes where we received a good education, exposure to life and experiences outside of our neighborhoods, saw examples of Christ-centered marriages, were given Christian nurturing and love, and were taught valuable skills for navigating the complexities of life. This is where we believe UCM fits in…we can come alongside these families and young adults who did not have that type of support. The families we work with are trying to keep the lights on, put food on the table, pay rent, but they live day-to-day with limited opportunity to move forward and imagine a different way of life.
We see that it is more than just finances. These families face a spiritual, educational, economical, and opportunities poverty and the Body of Christ is called to help meet their needs.
HOW WE SERVE: We believe our role is to meet both the spiritual and physical needs of children, families, and “youth in transition” in the Hattiesburg area. We do this work in a variety of ways through partnering with local churches and Believers. Below is a list of the activities we offer on a regular basis:
- Connections Program – This is our main discipleship activity where we are teaching kids God’s words and helping them to understand and walk in God’s ways. In this model, we hold weekly meetings with our kids where we meet with them one-on-one (one teacher per student) and study the Bible and how it applies to our lives. Our volunteers often work with a child for many years, watch them grow up while developing a relationship that allows for mentoring and support over the long-haul. Not only are people working with these students year after year, but it’s a church program that doesn’t seem to wear out our volunteers. We are relationally oriented, we select kids that want to learn and are teachable. Current church partners include Temple Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg and Heritage United Methodist Church. For information about starting a program in your own church or getting involved in an existing connections group, contact Jack Kennedy.
- Scripture Memory Program – We work with children and families through scripture memory and Bible study with an emphasis on walking in God’s ways and obeying God’s wonderful words.One of our main tools is the ABC’s of Walking in God’s Ways, which most of the individuals we work with have memorized.
- Mentoring and Individual Support – What is unique about UCM is that we often go into the community looking for kids that we can work with who want to memorize scripture, are teachable, respect authority, and want to work with us. We don’t just have people come to us. We actually meet and select the kids that show these characteristics. We stick with them as they grow up and do whatever we can to help meet the needs they have in life – medical help, getting glasses, getting a driver’s license, getting a car, getting into college, getting a job, etc. It’s very similar to raising your own children. If there is a need that they have preventing them from moving forward in life, we provide that or we try to help meet that need if their parents are not able to.
- Fun and Fellowship on Friday Nights – A lot of our kids don’t have a good activity to be involved with on the weekends, so we started a Fun and Fellowship time where our kids can come to a local church or the house of a partner to play games, have a meal, make friends and have a time of devotion. This is a special, fun activity for our kids and oftentimes they are able to come to a Christian home with an intact family and relationships to which they may not always have exposure.
- Foundations for Learning Summer School – Each summer, UCM hosts a summer school week at Woodland Presbyterian Church for the kids in our ministry to help prevent the “summer slide.” Research shows that children in low-income households fall behind an average of 2 months in reading during the summer. And, summer slide is cumulative, with these learning losses building up each summer, accounting for two-thirds of the 9th grade achievement gap in reading between students from low-income households and their higher-income peers.
- Christmas Present Distribution – Every Christmas, we collect and distribute Christmas presents for our kids. We work with local churches and their membership in providing and distributing these presents through an “angel tree” type of activity. The parents of our children give us recommendations for gifts to give to their children and we try to get them two gifts each.
- Bible Study Publications and Development: UCM publishes most of its own Bible studies that are written specifically for our students. These Bible studies are available free of charge for your download and duplication on our UCM resources page.