What is the role of the volunteer at Inner City Mission? How can your Youth Group or other ministry team learn firsthand about service to the homelessness? What is a Service Retreat Weekend? This month’s edition of the Inner City Mission eNews answers those questions and more with the help of Volunteer Director Jeff Higginson.
Meet Jeff Higginson
Jeff grew up in North Pekin and attended Lincoln Christian College (now Lincoln Christian University), where he met Scott Payne and formed a friendship that lasts to this day. Upon graduation, Jeff went into youth ministry. In 1991 he married his wife, Julie. The couple has two grown children and two grandchildren. They currently live in Fancy Prairie, near Athens, Illinois.
“I was a youth minister for 17 years,” says Jeff. “I was getting to a place in my life where I felt too old and uncool for youth ministry. Scott said he had the perfect job for me, and he recruited me for Inner City Mission. And what do you know, he was right: sixteen years later, I still love my job!"
Jeff’s love for people and great ability to communicate made him the perfect choice to coordinate volunteer and group activities. It was Jeff who came up with the idea of a Service Retreat Weekend to introduce youth ministry groups to the often-misunderstood world of homelessness. The group retreat idea proved successful, and now Inner City Mission hosts an average of two groups a month—not just kids but adults as well.
Jeff also started the Jeff Higginson Band (more about that below) which to date has raised $35,000 to fund the work of Inner City Mission.
The Retreat Experience
Tom Fedrigon is senior pastor at the St. Elmo Christian Church. In addition to playing with the Jeff Higginson Band, Tom has brought several groups to Inner City Mission for service retreats.
“It benefits everyone involved,” Tom says. “Some work gets done around the shelter that needs done, some supplies get brought in that are needed. The residents get to meet people who really do care about them, or they wouldn’t be there. It’s a chance for them to see the love of Jesus in action.
“The kids at the Mission really eat it up. We’ve taken them to the park, things like that. They like the attention.”
As far as the rewards of taking part in a service retreat, Fedrigon says, “I’ve never had a group member say anything except that they were blessed. Many times I’ve heard, ‘I thought I was going to help them, and they blessed me and helped me understand the plight of people.’
“It’s hard to describe these mission trips until you’ve had the experience,” Tom concludes, “but it is a blessing beyond measure.”
Jeff agrees wholeheartedly. “What excites me are the bonds that form,” he says. “A lady in one of our groups this weekend said she was going to be returning to the Mission to visit the new friends she had made! That happens a lot. We also had a resident who decided to be baptized after hearing a group member—a high school student—give his testimony. ‘I get it now!’ she exclaimed.”
“Stepping out of your comfort zone is always a good thing,” Jeff says of the volunteer experience. “Most people who encounter what goes on at ICM, their faith makes more sense because they’re seeing a real need there and seeing that Jesus can meet that need.”
To volunteer at ICM, either individually or as part of a group, contact Jeff Higginson at email@example.com. Those interested in the weekend service retreat should first read the Service Retreat Weekend info sheet.
Payne with Purpose
Have you checked out Scott Payne’s new blog? Go here to gain a greater understanding of the underlying causes of homelessness, and insight on how the church can help the homeless.
This week, Scott continues his presentation of the “Stability Project” booklet and takes a moment out to reflect on working with Jeff Higginson.
Get involved with our residents today!
The Jeff Higginson Band
“A praise and worship band on classic rock steroids,” is how Jeff Higginson describes the Jeff Higginson Band. “Basically, we’re a fundraising tool for the Mission made up of phenomenal musicians dedicated to ICM. I can’t believe I get to play with guys this good.”
"Call us for a booking. We'll put on a good show and tell you all about the Mission You'll get my shameless plug. All we ask in return is that you take up a collection for ICM, feed the guys while we're there, and let us offer our band merchandise to help spread the word."
The Jeff Higginson Band is made entirely of volunteer musicians, and every penny raised goes to support the work of ICM.
Charlie was having a bad day and needed a pick-me-up. That same day, a lady from a group we recently hosted stopped by ICM and told Charley that her story really touched her, and then blessed her with some bus passes for work. Charlie was truly amazed and declared, "I love how God lifts people up when they need it most!"
A resident named Lizzy was baptized!
Michelle successfully completed her HVAC Course at Midwest Technical Institute. She is now a full step closer to her goal of attaining a job in her field!