In Greek, the root word kaleo means “to call.” In Indianapolis, it represents a group of called women who are on the move (literally), facilitating the spread of the gospel through pooled financial gifts, service, and friendship.
By: Jill Turner, NCF
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. – 1 John 3:18 (NIV)
The women and the plan
In 2005, Barb Tait and Cindy Palmer were contemplating the next phase of their lives. With their children soon to be “out of the nest,” they began asking questions: “What purpose of divine significance will I have now? Am I all used up for anything of divine significance at this point in my life?”
As they looked around at their friends, they realized, “We are the first generation of women who are largely college educated, have vocational skill sets, as well as financial and spiritual resources. And now, [we have] a new resource of time,” Palmer says. They also had connections … and an idea that led them to put their faith into action. they would spread the gospel by supporting the ministries that were the hands and feet of Christ to the women and children of Indianapolis.
“We knew that God had a purpose for us in this new season, to be contributors – meaningfully living out God’s commission to respond to the call to go and serve,” Tait says. They called together 75 of their friends and invited them all to lunch. “We were really blessed to have so many,” and 43 jumped on board that year.
We knew that God had a purpose for us in this new season, to be contributors ….
The notion of generosity struck a chord with the gathered group. Among their peers, they found women experiencing the same things. “We’ve been so internally focused with our children and developing them. We had to really search our hearts for [what was next.]”
What came from that searching was a ministry that focused on those most in need in their city. They established as priorities ministries working in four areas in Indianapolis: homelessness, women in crisis, education and biblical justice, and refugees.
They began with a plan. Each woman would give $1000 over the course of a year. They would spend the year selecting ministries to receive grants, but also serving those ministries and studying to become better servants.
It became clear early on that they could not do it alone. With the same people leading Bible studies, finding charities, vetting charities, and equipping women to serve, it just became too much.
“We realized that more and more people were drawn to the light of what we were doing,” Tait says, but, as their work grew, they were doing too much. “We became like Ethel and Lucy in the chocolate factory,” and it was becoming like an assembly line. Too many and too fast was not how they wanted to run their growing ministry.
They recognized they needed help. Then God sent them a team.
First, a group of their own members stepped up to be the ones to vet the charities. This turned out to be a double blessing, because those who had not volunteered with any of the ministries before had opportunities to go see the ministries they were vetting and spend more time with them. This quickly resulted in more volunteering.
Next, when Barb told her brother Don, what she and Cindy were working on, he told her about the Hoosier Christian Foundation, which he had helped to establish with a group of 10 men for the purpose of facilitating financial gifts. (Hoosier Christian Foundation later joined forces with the National Christian Foundation and is now NCF’s Indiana office.)
Barb was overwhelmed by the support she found there. “It was like the sea parted. They would help us in any way we needed,” Tait says. “NCF was a shield … that went before us,” helping with the vetting of charities and facilitating grants as the group established what types of ministries they were called to and would commit to serve.
The next person to join them was Tim Streett, who had lived among and served the poor in cities for more than 20 years. Streett took the women out of their meeting space and into the streets of Indy, traveling by bus to learn about the history of a city full of poverty and see, in person, the people fighting it.
Traveling by bus, the women learned about the history of a city full of poverty and saw it in person.
They learned about the difference among people who rent their homes and who own them and how that impacts generational poverty. They met people in the ministries, instead of just learning about them from far off. They learned what the word “gentrification” meant, with a front–row seat to its impact.
Streett was joined by a senior fellow from Sagamore Institute, Amy Sherman, who shared with the group from Scripture about God’s heart for the poor. Together, Streettt and Sherman now lead Kaleo’s “Urban Institute,” an eight-week study designed to establish the biblical foundations for their work helping the poor. Though the study isn’t mandatory, it’s recommended for all the women of the group. The focused Bible study covers topics like “Kingdom Theology,” “The City 101” (which includes the bus tour), and “Vocational Stewardship.”
The ministries Kaleo is serving now include an outreach to runaway and homeless youth, a food bank, and a legal clinic that offers services to low-income and refugee families. These organizations are partners, and Kaleo members are encouraged to visit and serve them regularly. “There are so many ministries in our community doing good,” Tait says. “We just wanted to come alongside them and give them our support.”
Kaleo serves as a connecting point for ministries that had once been siloed. This connection was a fruit of their labor the group didn’t anticipate but wholeheartedly welcome. And they regularly honor the leaders of their ministry partners, offering much-needed encouragement for those called not to grow weary while doing good.
At the end of the year, Kaleo holds an evening event to honor the ministries they’ve chosen to support and give them their grants. In May, those ministries are invited back to the group to share what they’ve been able to do because of the money. At the end of the year, they announce another group of ministries, and it continues.
A lot of people tag them as a giving circle, but they’re more than that, Tait says. “We are an equipping, serving and giving circle,” Palmer explains. Some women give but are not able to serve yet. The group accepts people where they are, not just in the ministries they support, but among their group too.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” Tait says, quoting Jesus from Matthew 9. “He tells us to pray earnestly for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest.” The women of Kaleo take this seriously. And they take it a step further, training the workers and providing community.
Many members of the group have developed a long-term faithfulness to the work. Four women who were plugged into a ministry to the homeless during the first meeting of the newly formed group are still serving there 10 years later. Women in the group have reached their 60s and even 80s. And some of those kids who left the nest have come home to be part of the group too.
And it’s coming full circle now with this new generation of givers joining. Scholarships have been established to remove the burden for younger women who want to join. But most of them want to give. Tait says she’s so impressed by the monthly checks they write to make their $1000 goal.
Over the course of about 10 years, 261 women have given a little more than $1 million. So they’ve decided to raise the bar. Their new goal is to launch 1000 women into service and give away $1 million annually by the year 2028.
Together, the members of the group realize that the sum of what they are doing together is far greater than any one of them could have ever accomplished alone.
Watch the video to learn more.