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Building Victim Assistance Networks With Faith Communities: Lessons Learned by the Vermont Victim Services 2000 Project
About This E-PublicationAcknowledgmentsMessage From the DirectorAbout the AuthorsRelated Links
The Need for Collaboration
Victim Needs From a Faith-Based Perspective
Elements of Collaboration
Lessons Learned
Program Startup, Relationship Building, and Sustainability
Cross Training
Lay Ministries

Enhanced Seminary Curricula

Faith Community Involvement in Task Forces and Community Initiatives
Public Education Opportunities
Interdisciplinary Approach
Issues Unique to Faith-Based Victim Assistance
Supplementary Materials
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Faith Based Victim Assistance Organizations

Lessons Learned

Program Startup, Relationship Building, and Sustainability

The VS 2000 staff recommend that victim service programs planning to partner with a faith community take specific steps related to program startup, relationship building, and sustainability efforts.

Program Startup

  • Reassure faith leaders that they can use many of the resources they have already developed; they do not need to create a completely new program.

  • Ask them about their vision for serving victims of crime in their congregations. Create a vision together; do not impose a vision onto the faith community.

  • Learn about the demographics of the neighborhood, the history of the religious institution, the community groups involved, and the important players.

  • Take plenty of time to lay the program foundation. Create an advisory committee to do strategic planning.

  • Find out what kind of opposition may exist, and plan with the faith community how to deal with it.

  • Find a skilled, neutral facilitator to lead the group through the strategic planning process.

  • Find out which members of the congregation may already be providing some of these services and include those people in the strategic planning team.

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Relationship Building

  • Meet faith communities on their own ground, "break bread" with them, and find out how they already address the needs of their parishioners.

  • Find common ground, and keep it foremost.

  • Be open to faith leaders' ideas. Faith leaders may not be experts on victim assistance, but some of the best ideas come from people who approach a task without preconceived ideas of how it should be done.

  • Remind faith leaders that victims of crime may be a hidden population in their congregations.

  • Remember that many of the needs identified by victims of crime cannot be provided by victim service programs: the whole community is needed to serve victims comprehensively.

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Sustainability Efforts

  • Remain engaged after the initial phase is over; offer ongoing consulting services to the faith community.

  • Help the faith community seek funding to provide additional services. Provide technical assistance, and share resources.

  • Encourage faith leaders to take ownership of the initiative by including their congregations in program planning and design and by keeping them informed.

  • Ensure that faith communities receive the state victim services resource directory, and stay informed about the resources of the local congregations.

  • Evaluate the project and use the findings to improve future efforts.

  • Provide for ongoing sustainability and long-term input.

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