The Oaks Project builds on the groundbreaking work of Advance Memphis and The Chalmers Center. Over 15 years of ministry, Advance partnered with The Chalmers Center at Covenant College to:
- Field-test and launch a financial literacy program around the Faith & Finances curriculum
- Write and publish Work Life, a job readiness curriculum designed for folks coming out of generational poverty
While serving as the Director of Education at Advance and living in that same community over the past 5 years, Michael Rhodes had the incredible privilege of facilitating these curricula numerous times, co-authoring Work Life, and training others in how to facilitate these programs around the country.
Rhodes founded The Oaks Project at MCUTS to expand on this work by mobilizing MCUTS students and other ministry leaders to facilitate Faith & Finances and Work Life in their local churches or neighborhood ministries.
Year 1, The Oaks Project will:
- Offer accredited classes that certify adults to lead Faith & Finances and Work Life ministries in their churches. MCUTS students will receive college credit for these classes, while anyone in the community who wishes to facilitate these programs without becoming an MCUTS student can audit them. Because many MCUTS students worship and serve in churches in marginalized neighborhoods, and because many of our students have grown up in these communities and overcome significant roadblocks in their own journey, including poverty, systemic injustice, and racism, we believe that these MCUTS students are themselves the Oaks of Righteousness that God is raising up to renew our cities.
- Offer accredited internships to students who want to lead Faith & Fiances or Work Life in their churches or ministry contexts. This will incentivize students to get out there and begin serving their churches and neighbors with job training and financial education, and will connect them to both a community of others attempting to do the same thing and access to expertise in these programs along the way . . . all while earning credit towards a BS in Bible or Human Services.
- Support our students in mobilizing their churches or ministries to equip their neighbors to:
- become better stewards of their God-given resources,
- move from underemployment to full-time work, and
- embrace the good news that Jesus is reconciling all things.
In addition to continuing these programs, in following years The Oaks Project will:
- Pilot offering programs like matched savings accounts through local churches and ministries already offering the Faith & Finance and Work Life classes. Matched-savings programs like Individual Development Accounts have proven to be an important development strategy for graduates of financial education programs, but running such a program is beyond the core competencies of most churches. The Oaks Project will evaluate the possibility of providing such programs through participating churches so that low-income neighbors access support through local churches, local churches provide relational support and mentoring to them while in the programs, and The Oaks Project maintains the infrastructure such a program requires.
- Develop the MCUTS Community Development courses and program
- Explore other community development initiatives around our city.
We believe that The Oaks Project will strengthen local communities by equipping and mobilizing local leaders and local churches. These leaders and churches will proclaim the kingdom by walking with their neighbors as they move towards better jobs, greater financial stewardship, a more extensive social network and support system, and a deeper awareness of their God-given gifts.
You can find more info on Faith & Finances (including a course overview and a sample session from the curriculum) here.
You can find more info on Work Life (including a course overview and two sample sessions from the curriculum) here.
And, check out this great video about Faith & Finances from the Chalmers Center.
Check out The Oaks Project blog here.
Visit The Oaks Project welcome page here.