What is SOFT?
SOFT is an action tool to help us develop a personal relationship with God. We believe that serving others, especially in one-on-one experiences, is the essence of Jesus as Love, and thereby the essence of our personal relationship with God.
SOFT connects us – in our own personal community – to encourage and support each other in routinely committing to serve others.
Simply put, we are committed to making a difference, and our tribe helps us stay on track. But it isn’t a tribe for serving, think of it as your support group. A way to connect with others who strive to live their faith as you do.
Short explanation: We provide community for Christians committed to living Their Faith. We connect and encourage each other in small 2-8 person tribes to make a difference in this world by creating genuine connections with those we serve – AND thereby enjoying a personal relationship with God.
You make a difference in someone’s life when you honor them with your time and attention.
When they matter, you matter!
That Christ will become personal and relevant to us through sustained actions of discipleship – that is, personally serving and caring for individuals on a regular basis.
We provide community for Christians committed to Living Their Faith through sustained actions of discipleship. We are social beings. Our peers are very important to us, and help us maintain our resolve. e connect with and encourage each other in small 2-8 person tribes, to become the best version of ourselves… the hands and ears of Jesus – committed to making a difference in this world – by creating genuine connections with those we serve – AND thereby enjoying a personal relationship with God.
How SOFT Works
There are 2 primary steps for the SOFT strategy.
First, you reach out to friends and/or family who share similar aspirations AND together create a 2-8 person tribe to encourage and support each other in routinely living your faith. We are social beings, and our peers are very important to us. When you commit to them – and with them – to take an action within a given time frame, you will be much more likely to follow through. But the tribe isn’t a group for serving. Think of it as your support group. A way to connect socially with others who strive to live their faith as you do.
Second, on a regular basis (in the SOFT app) you commit to yourself and your tribe to Live Your Faith – maybe 2 hours per week… in some way or manner, even with a friend that if makes you more comfortable. most of us start out in group-serving activities – which is great! But as we develop our serving habit, SOFT encourages evolving-to more personal involvement. It’s this one-on-one experience – simply getting to know someone, sharing time with them, and caring for them – that is true discipleship. And that leads to personal relationship with God.
There are hundreds of ways to reach out and help someone. Often times, serving starts with a physical action – like cleaning a room, visiting, or transporting someone. Even a cup of coffee and 15 minutes of conversation can go long ways in caring for someone. The critical element is to just get started.
Also, feel free to go with another person for safety or mentoring purposes. we want you to feel comfortable and be confident in each of your endeavors. The goals is to develop a consistent habit of living your faith.
This strategy is not just for the economically poor either; It is relevant to family members, neighbors, coworkers, and strangers – we all need someone, sometime. Remember… There is no right or wrong way to connect with someone! Only the CARING and LISTENING matter. God will take care of the rest.
For committing, sharing, and accountability SOFT provides a simple phone app for each tribe and its members. Disciples post their “serving” intention in the app, share before and after thoughts with each other, and at times, encourage each other to stay on track. The SOFT app also sends-out handy tips and friendly reminders. After completing a serving deed, a disciple simply updates his/her status in the app. The SOFT app is programmed to reset at 2 week time-frames; at which time tribe members make a new commitment to themselves and their tribe for the next time-frame
How SOFT Evolved
My life began changing about 4 years ago, after having suffered SEVERE financial losses. I attended a Christian Experience Weekend, and began a discerning process – ultimately realizing I was a “Sunday Catholic”, really only giving an hour a week to God – and not much to living my faith. I came away with C.E.W.s main message – that we need to Learn, Pray, and ACT – in order to start understanding God’s Love for us.
In MY process of learning and praying, I came across a Matthew Kelly book – The Four Signs of A Dynamic Catholic – which I highly recommend – and his call for the church to find a “game changer” something to inspire and engage us !
As I discerned many of the issues involved in people leaving the Catholic Church, or not really being engaged, I felt that we needed a new MEANS to make Jesus’ relevant today. We need to be involved; to ACT. I believe that when we are serving others, building them up, connecting with them, that we are living our faith; that it is relevant.
To achieve that end, I researched behavior concepts on social change from several sources; and ultimately created Serving Others Forward Together – A social-good organization to facilitate serving, connecting, and valuing others; and utilizing a “small groups” participation strategy to meet our inherent need to socialize.
Credibility and Commitment
I have developed several businesses from scratch, as well as two paradigm-changing patents in the storm water industry. I was able to build them into successful products on a guerilla budget – so I do have the experience and know how to lead SOFT – but YOU have to build it and make it work !
Although my patents were successful, some of my other unrelated “investments” were not. I definitely know the highs and lows of risk-taking.
In early 2013, I felt God was calling me to take the next step and develop this game-changer concept, so I fully committed to Serving Others Forward; and have put my TRUST in God.
Thomas Carpenter Bio
Thomas Carpenter: Age 61 | 4 kids aged 34-38 | 10 grandchildren aged 13-2.
I grew up Catholic in rural suburbs of Des Moines, IA and have lived in the area most of my life. I attended a Dowling Catholic High School and Iowa State University. I came from a family of 11 kids and my parents are still alive and celebrating life.
I spent 10 years in the family agri-business, which expanded into horticulture products as well. I went out on my own; starting a landscape contractor business, then working in advertising and marketing, real estate, banking, construction. In the late 90’s I started an storm water construction contractor business, which evolved into another 4 companies. People “joke” that I only have an attention span of about 5 years – they might be right?
I tell people “I have made a lot of money, and I have lost a lot of money” – meaning I have experienced the highs and lows of business and life. In general, I am a bit of a risk-taker. I have felt God’s call in different ways over the years, but chose to go my own way most of the time – and usually regretted it one way or another.
In the last 3-4 years, I have responded to his call and to my gifts in a more direct way. I felt God was calling me to use my talents and interests (experience) to conceive and develop a game-changer for the Catholic Church. I felt there were many inspirational opportunities and leaders out there (including sermons, etc.); but no process and strategy helping people to take ACTION – to facilitate the serving process of being the “hands, ears, and voice” of Jesus” to others.
So, I have spent over a year now, developing Serving Others Forward Together SOFT. I am an ordinary person, a sinner; not a deacon or eloquent speaker or wealthy retiree. I know how to develop strategy, organize, and build things from scratch – so I have used my talents and experience (risk-taking?) to start this process.
I am not sure where it is going, or how it will get there, for sure. I am going to rely on lots of other ordinary and not-so-ordinary people to serve others – to follow Jesus’ example and direction; and then see where it goes.
Acknowledgement & Thanks
I want to say “thank you” to the people below, and whoever else I might have missed. These authors and people inspired thoughts, direction, and prayer in my process of developing Serving Others Forward Together.
I probably used thoughts, sentences, and maybe paragraphs written by them – not to plagiarize, but just because their ideas went into a big pot of information, which I ultimately pulled out in segments as I developed the organization and website.
I didn’t know where or how the concept would end up, so it is a collaboration of ideas. The originality from me is limited to using the collaboration to present a beginning solution to people feeling disconnected in their lives, feeling the Church is not relevant, and feeling out-of-sync with Jesus’ primary message of serving others.
From this point, my hope is that many people will bring their ideas and energy to this organization, and help build SOFT into a world-wide movement – building-up people in need, changing the way we treat each other, and ultimately becoming better people ourselves.
1. Kenneth C. Haugk: Christian Caregiving: A way of Life
2. Guy Kawasaki: Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions
3. James E. Sullivan: The Good Listener
4. Jennifer AAker and Andy Smith with Carlye Adler: The Dragonfly Effect
5. Seth Godin: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
6. Matthew Kelly: Rediscover Catholicism
7. Matthew Kelly: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic
8. Matthew Kelly: www.Dynamic Catholic.com
9. Dr. John Townsend: Loving People
10. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: Love and Respect
11. Tom Asacker: The Business of Belief
12. Dr. Adam M. Grant: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
13. Chip Heath and Dan Heath: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
14. Malcolm Gladwell: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
15. Seth Godin: Permission Marketing
16. Kenneth C. Haugk: Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart
17. Jeffery Gitomer: Social Boom: How to Master Social Media
18. Fr. Larry Richards: Surrender: The Life-Changing Power of Doing Good
19. Chip Conley: Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo
20. Mike Schultz and John Doerr: Rain-making Conversations: Influence, Persuade, & Sell
21. Albert L. Winseman: Growing an Engaged Church
22. Allen R. Hunt: Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody
23. Barbara Fredrickson: Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Effects Everyone
24. Kerry Patterson: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High
25. Jeffrey Gitomer: Little Black Book of Connections
26. Clarence Enzler; Everyone’s Way of the Cross
27. Maxwell Schaeffer: Voice-over
28. Mary Green, Dir. Of Adult Faith Formation, Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church, Ankeny, IA
29. Rodger Routh, Videographer
30. Webspec; Jeremiah Terhark, Hanna Henson, Kara Bartlow, and rest of the design team
31. Fr. Steve Orr, consulting
32. Fr. Larry Hoffman, consulting