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Benevolence network allows churches to see where assistance is goingcomment (0)

May 13, 2010

By Anna Swindle

A church’s doors are always open to those in need. But what if those needs are not so dire or even nonexistent?

Thanks to a pastor pinpointing that need to know whom his church was helping and sharing it with an experienced computer programmer, churches nationwide can now access a network that allows for more accountability and cooperation when it comes to benevolence ministry.

“I’ve been in the pastorate for a few years now, and wherever I went, I always had people come to me or our church office asking for benevolence help,” said Robert Lutz, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Saraland. “What surprised me was how many times my heart was broken over people trying to take advantage of us.

“Sixty to 70 percent of the people coming into our office were people coming in without real needs, and other pastors said they faced it all the time, too,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get the assistance to people who really need it?’”

Luckily Sandy Litaker, a member of Shiloh Baptist and vice president of Wise Technology in Saraland, was able to provide a way to do just that. With the help of his 11-person team at Wise Technology, Litaker crafted special software — Wise Hope — to act as a platform for churches to communicate with one another and form a benevolence network.

“This system allows an individual to go to different locations for assistance,” explained Sue Phillips, a part of the Wise Technology sales department and a member of First Baptist Church, Bay Minette. “And they can, say, go to one church and get $25 toward a utility bill, then go to another church and get $25 and so on. And each church documents it in the system. So each church knows that person is getting partial payment from each church they go to. We want to make this software more of a way to help other people and keep churches and benevolent organizations networked so they can stay in touch with each other.”

The folks at Wise Technology officially rolled out the first version of Wise Hope last July, and they’ve seen the network really grow and flourish.

So far, about 150 organizations — both churches and other typical providers of benevolence ministry like the Escambia County Red Cross — are part of the Wise Hope network.

Atmore Area Christian Care Ministries, an inter-denominational emergency needs-based ministry is another group that has incorporated Wise Hope into its operations. Michael McMorris, Atmore’s chairman, says he and his co-workers have been using Wise Hope since the beginning of 2010, and they’re quite pleased with the way the software has fit into their organization.

“We were seeking a program to serve as a way to better track those who were coming to us for assistance, in an effort to try to curb abuses of the system,” McMorris said. “While the program works best for a network of agencies connected and sharing information about who is coming to them for assistance, we have been using it in house to better help share information between volunteers who are assisting our clients.”

And it’s not just a way for churches and organizations to monitor the needs they’re meeting; it’s also an effective way to share needs with others.

For example, if a family’s home burns down and its church isn’t able to offer enough help, then the church can use Wise Hope technology to send out an alert to other organizations, listing specific needs (girls’ clothes size 10, a refrigerator, etc.).

“It’s gotten to that point now where it’s starting to catch and snowball,” Litaker said. “And it’s something that does hit home with these pastors. They want to be good stewards of their benevolence.”

In order to allow as many organizations to join the network as possible, Wise Technology has worked hard to keep the price affordable. Wise Hope software costs $183 per organization, and it can be accessed from any computer with Internet capability.

“We really believe in this product as a way of helping people be good stewards of the money and resources they have,” Phillips said.

“That’s why we’re so dedicated to it, and I want to see it through and see as many churches get involved as possible. The more people that get involved, the more effective it will be.”

For more information, visit www.gowisenow.com.

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