Procedures to Follow in Providing Oblation Assistance in USA
Verify Recipient Qualifications
Verify the membership and/or association with the church of the person(s) seeking assistance.
- Consult with congregation recorder if there is a question about membership status of local persons.
- In the case of transient persons or members who have just transferred into the congregation, verify membership and previous instances of aid given by calling Fiscal Services in Independence. Have transient person provide a name and phone number to verify identity and destination.
- As stated above, active membership is not required to receive oblation aid. If the person making the request is an inactive member or nonmember there should be an association and on-going ministry between the person and the church.
Determine the nature of the needs and attitudes.
- The CFO or MCFO should be personally involved and in direct contact with the person(s) requesting aid to gain an understanding of the situation and to determine the attitude of persons involved. If the CFO or MCFO is not available in the area, then another minister may be designated to serve as the primary liaison between the person(s) requesting aid and the CFO/MCFO processing the financial aid. Likewise if the CFO or MCFO does not feel gifted in providing oblation ministry, another minister may be designated to serve as the oblation minister for the jurisdiction to liaison between the person(s) requesting aid and the CFO/MCFO processing the financial aid.
- In most cases this ministry to persons in need will be in conjunction with the Pastor, members of the priesthood, or other local officers. Their counsel should be considered carefully with the understanding of the situation.
- It is the responsibility of the CFO to make the decision regarding the use of oblation or in making a recommendation to the MCFO. While the advice of the church administrative officers should be considered carefully, it does not remove the CFO or MCFO from responsibility to make the decisions.
- Providing financial aid is not always the best form of ministry for a person in need. Sometimes it is simply the easiest to provide. When a person in need approaches the church for financial assistance, our first goal is discerning the deeper ministerial needs of the individual and seeking ways to provide ministry that is consistent with the message of Jesus. Even when financial aid is not provided, the CFO/MCFO should provide follow-up ministry, where appropriate, to insure that the person still understands their value in the world as a child of God.
Determine the Kind of Assistance Required
Oblation assistance is provided in two distinct categories:
- emergency or one-time needs
- extended assistance
Emergency needs are defined as one-time assistance. If the financial requirement is within the limits authorized for CFOs, they are free to give the assistance based on their judgment and subject to the requirements of these procedures.
If the financial requirements exceed CFOs' authorized limits, they should contact the MCFO. If the financial needs are beyond the MCFO's limits, please contact Fiscal Services at International Headquarters.
Whenever needed, CFOs should complete an Oblation Aid Worksheet form (OB-101) to assist them in gathering inforamtion and helping the recipient(s) understand their situation realistically.
Gather Essential Information
Form OB-101 has several purposes:
- It provides CFOs and MCFOs and administrative officers involved with an orderly and systematic procedure for gathering important information regarding the situation.
- It helps the prospective recipients understand their situation realistically.
- It exposes prospective recipients to basic stewardship disciplines, such as prayerful financial planning.
- It provides Fiscal Services with information necessary in making decisions that are referred to International Headquarters.
Because Form OB-101 is a tool for the minister, under no circumstances should it be handed or mailed to the prospective aid recipient to fill out.
Because the purpose of oblation is to minister to those who may be poor and needy, the process of gathering information must be done in the context of ministry.
Because the primary objective is ministry, oblation should never be used simply to "get someone off our backs." The ministry given should assist persons to realistically understand their situation and take positive steps to effect lasting change.
Expenditures from Oblation
Whenever possible, oblation aid should be disbursed directly to the vendors or service-providers for which the person is requesting assistance. Every reasonable effort should be taken to avoid disbursing aid directly to the person requesting it, which can cause undesirable consequences including possible tax consequences. This may be accomplished by writing a check directly to third-parties such as a landlord or utility company, purchasing gift cards for a grocery store or gas station, or accompanying the person to the store to assist in making the necessary purchases.
Oblation aid is primarily a congregational ministry. If the Oblation Aid Worksheet (OB-101) indicates a one-time need, the CFO can either:
- Disburse aid according to the guidance above if the dollar requirement is within the CFO authorized limits.
- Make a recommendation to the MCFO if the dollar requirement is above the CFO authorized limit. If the financial needs are within the authorized limits, and the MCFO concurs in the decision to give assistance, the MCFO can either authorize the CFO to disburse the funds or disburse the funds directly from the mission center account. If the requirements exceed the MCFO's limits, the MCFO should make the recommendation directly to Fiscal Services at International Headquarters.
If the Oblation Aid Worksheet (OB-101) indicates that an extended period of assistance is required, the CFO should forward the worksheet with recommendation to the MCFO.
- If the MCFO concurs with the recommendation, a copy is sent to Fiscal Services at International Headquarters.
- Monthly disbursements will be made by the CFO or MCFO, depending on what is most convenient. This extended aid will be for a period no longer than three months. The situation should be reviewed during the third month.
- It will be the responsibility of the CFO/MCFO to initiate the three-month review and communicate, if needed, with Fiscal Services any further recommendations.
- Extended periods of aid beyond the normal three-month period may be granted when circumstances warrant. Fiscal Services approval is required before the three-month period is extended.
An Oblation Aid Report, form (OB-100), must be filled out in detail for every oblation expenditure.
- A copy of the OB-100 is attached to an OB-102, Reimbursement Form and sent to Fiscal Services at oblation@CofChrist.org for reimbursement.
- When an Oblation Aid Worksheet (Form OB-101), has been approved, an OB-100 form needs to be filled out for each disbursement, noting that it is the first, second, or third monthly disbursement approval.
Oblation Reports are maintained in Fiscal Services for the duration of the recipient's lifetime in order to facilitate evaluation of future requests for aid in light of established limits.
- This is particularly important in keeping up with transient persons who might make a habit of requesting aid.
- It is also important to provide oblation histories on members who move from one jurisdiction to another.
MCFOs may make general reports to their mission center conferences on oblation ministry in their area. They should not disclose any confidential or identifying information regarding specific situations.
Requests for reimbursement should be submitted promptly to Fiscal Services at International Headquarters at oblation@CofChrist.org. Requests submitted more than one year after the aid was disbursed will not be reimbursed.
Follow Up Ministry
It is appropriate for the minister who evaluated the situation to make follow-up contact with the person(s) who received assistance. It is important for persons receiving aid to understand that they are persons of value and that requesting aid does not isolate them from the body. Likewise, it allows the minister to reinforce the incorporation of the principles of A Disciple’s Generous Response into the life of the person(s) receiving aid.
In complex situations, it may be appropriate to develop an action plan that identifies all the actions that are going to be accomplished by the various participants in oblation ministry along with target dates for completion. There is no form for this. It is simply a list of what the recipient(s) and minister(s) have committed to and by when. Follow up ministry then allows for everyone to review the status of the action plan.
Where to Turn - Additional Assistance
Plan Before the Need Arises
It is very helpful if CFOs and MCFOs put together resource lists of agencies and services available in their community to help people in need. Then if a transient person stops by the church or if a member’s need exceeds the capacity of the oblation program, the CFO/MCFO has options readily available to refer the person. The following sections provide some ideas for where to look to determine what is available in a specific area.
Providing assistance to those in need is often an excellent opportunity to work with other churches, religious organizations, and other not-for-profits in the community. Ministerial, ecumenical, and interfaith alliances providing social ministries should be considered as a possible option to extend the limited support available through oblation.
Government Social Services
Search online or consult the government pages of a telephone book to find contact information for social service agencies in your area.
Local counseling, crisis intervention, and short-term financial assistance
Alcoholics Anonymous: A fellowship of men and women who share their experiences to help each other overcome their common problem of alcoholism. There is no membership fee. Alateen is a similar program for teenage alcoholics. Alanon is a program to help family members of alcoholics learn how to help the alcoholic. It provides strength and support for family members who must live with an alcoholic.
Red Cross: Provides assistance to individuals and families in floods, tornadoes, fires, etc. Assists families burned out of their homes with relocation, and pays for furniture, clothing and rent. Helps military families and veterans with emergency communications between military personnel and their families, provides them with family counseling, assistance in securing government benefits, and financial and transportation for the handicapped.
Child Abuse Hot Line: According to laws in every state, the following persons are required to immediately report suspected or observed child abuse or neglect to their welfare department Child Protection Unit: physicians, dentists, interns, nurses, psychologists, teachers, principals, other school officials, social workers, daycare center workers, ministers, peace officers, and any other person with responsibility for the care of children (some states list other persons as well).
The person making the report is immune from any liability--civil or criminal. All reports are followed up by the state. FAILURE TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT IS PUNISHABLE BY FINE OR IMPRISONMENT. Contact the Community of Christ Office of General Counsel immediately if you think you might need to report a situation of child abuse that involves church members or ministers.
Consumer Credit Counseling: A free service for people with debt problems. The program helps people set up a plan to repay debts which the person can afford, and which the creditors will accept. Most credit bureaus can refer you to this service.
Legal Aid (Assistance): Provides legal representation and services for low-income persons. Clients must meet financial guidelines to qualify. This service does not include fee-generating cases such as libel or compensatory suits.
Salvation Army: A Christian-oriented social service agency, which is found in most states. Services may include free or low-cost housing, food, clothing, and furniture. Their emergency shelters provide free room and board for one to five days for families in need. Many of their agencies have alcoholic rehabilitation programs.
Community Centers: Often these centers provide a wide variety of programs to youth and senior citizens, including an emergency financial assistance fund and a food pantry.
Federal and State Programs
Aid to the Blind: Services for the blind include income maintenance programs and vocational rehabilitation programs. (See also Supplementary Security Income.)
Alcohol Abuse Program: Programs to prevent, control, and treat alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Child Welfare Programs: These programs may include daycare, foster care, and adoption programs. Protective services for abused and neglected children are found in most states and provinces.
Drug Abuse Programs: Programs to prevent, control, and treat drug abuse. Most programs include counseling, job placement, and special services to youth, women, older workers, and handicapped persons.
Employment Services: Most states have local public employment officers who provide employers and workers with free employment counseling, job placement, and special services to youth, women, older workers, and handicapped persons.
General Assistance: An income maintenance program for people with physical or mental incapacity, including pregnant women, where there is no employable family member in the household. This program gives short-term financial assistance to people who do not quality for any other income maintenance program.
Health Department: Provides free clinics for the detection and control of venereal disease, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. Some offer free prenatal care and checkups for babies. Many offer Planned Parenthood programs which provide low-cost pregnancy tests, pelvic exams, contraceptives, abortion information, free counseling, and sex education.
Housing Assistance: These programs supplement rent and provide inexpensive housing for low-income persons.
Mental Health Programs: Programs for the prevention, control, and treatment of mental and emotional illness. Most programs provide low-cost counseling and outpatient services for recovering patients. Many programs also include twenty-four-hour crisis intervention counseling in the case of child abuse, attempted suicide, and other emergencies.
Unemployment Compensation: An income maintenance program for unemployed workers who have been working in "covered work" over a base eligibility period.
Veterans Administration: Provides medical and surgery needs, disability pension and benefits, vocational rehabilitation, and home loans for veterans.
Vocational Rehabilitation: An employment training program for the disabled, mentally incapacitated, mentally retarded, and rehabilitated alcoholics. The program seeks to evaluate each person's abilities and train for employment.
United States Organizations
Aid to Families with Dependent Children (ADFC or ADG): An income-maintenance program to ensure that children have continued support when their parent or parents are unemployed. Some states will not allow families with an employable adult male present to receive this income.
Food Stamp Program: This program is administered through state and local welfare agencies. The program provides food coupons for low-income households so they may buy more food of greater variety to improve their diets.
Medicaid: A health care financing program, which provides hospital and supplementary medical insurance for low-income individuals and families.
Medicare: The health care financing program for those receiving Social Security.
Social Security: This is the social insurance program to supplement the income of those 62 and over, disabled workers and their dependents, and survivors of the family provider. Only those who have paid into Social Security, while employed, can receive this income.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI): An income maintenance program for retired persons who do not qualify for Social Security, as well as blind and disabled individuals.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): This program is designed to help low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum, or breast-feeding, and children under age five to maintain adequate nutrition. This food supplement program provides certificates for basic food items such as cereal, dairy products, formula, fruits, and vegetables. This program is administered by state health agencies.
Work Incentive (WIN): A program to encourage and assist unemployed individuals in obtaining employment. Participation is required for all AFDC recipients.