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The church’s impetus for community outreach is Christ’s example of genuine love for people and His selfless efforts to meet their needs. When our hearts beat in unison with god’s we will see people as He sees them. We will be moved by their plight and compelled to minister to their needs. One of the signs of genuine conversion is a shift in focus from our needs to the needs of others.
When the church takes seriously the implications of the Great Commission, it can no longer exist merely for itself. Jesus said, ‘Go you into all the world” (Mark 16:15) and compared the work of His disciples to salt (see Matt. 5:13). Christ calls Christians to transform society, to build community churches. That means we must be about the work of building bridges to people rather than erecting walls.
Preaching the Good News must be accompanied with good deeds (service and compassion). Members need to be equipped and trained to serve the world in the area of their calling and become primary agents for mission. We are Christ’s hands and feet, bringing help and healing to a hurting world.
Core Practices – How It’s Done
· Have a clearly articulated, community-based mission statement
· Profile community service projects during the worship service
· Expect pastors and congregational leaders to personally model community-based ministry
· Equip and empower members for community service
· ‘Ordain’ new members into community service at baptism and develop their spiritual gifts
· Expect and enable members to participate in community boards and service organizations
· Assess community needs through surveys and by interviewing municipal leaders
· Build personal relationships with civic leaders
· Plant ministries in unentered areas
· Make the church facility available for community use
· Have resources focused on community, not congregational needs
· Host a prayer ministry and community prayer walks
· Sponsor local and overseas service projects
· Partner with other churches and community groups
· Have representation at all major community events
Columbia Union Church Profiles
• Walk of Faith Fellowship
What does a church look like when it decides to build its programming and ministry around the needs of the community instead of its own membership?
You can find one such church on the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio on Lorain Avenue, the Walk of Faith Fellowship. By daylight Lorain avenue appears to be a quiet and tranquil suburb however if you look closely beneath the surface you will find there is more than what meets the eye. This is an old well established community that is in transition. It struggles with high unemployment, many boarded up businesses in the downtown area, prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse, and gang violence. There is a growing homeless population. The demographic profile is mixed with about 50% being Caucasian, and the rest divided among blacks, Hispanics, and others.
Walk of Faith Fellowship is a church plant whose members broke off from existing churches to begin a ministry that would effectively address the unmet needs of this community. It began as a small group meeting in the basement of a church member’s home. They next rented space from a local Presbyterian church but they had to find another place to meet when the Presbyterian church closed down, stereotypical of the community itself. Then through a series of divine led events they purchased the store front building in which they are now meeting. This group of believers has struggled with its mission and core values, its membership has fluctuated, but after several intense years of defining its purpose it now has a nucleus of members who are one hundred percent dedicated to impacting their community with the gospel.
Most Adventist churches are located far from the downtown areas because their members favor a more urban environment. This church however is situated right on Lorain avenue, the center of town with a public bus stop right outside their front door. Furthermore Pastor Kuehmichel and his wife Trish live 2 blocks away from the church and are viewed as residents in the community.
Most Adventist churches hold their Sabbath School at 9:15 a.m. which is followed by the worship service at 11:00 a.m. because this is what their members are familiar with and prefer. However Walk of Faith Fellowship found that these traditional hours were not convenient for the community they were trying to reach so they hold their worship service at 11:00 a.m. which is followed by what they call a community meal and then a 2:00 p.m. Bible study. They are finding that many more people from the community are participating in their services simply by adjusting the time to one more convenient for them.
Most churches are closed during the week and are open to the community only on Sabbath. This church is open every morning and serves a hot breakfast for the many homeless who walk up and down Lorain avenue. They also operate a food pantry, give out clothing, and provide a washing machine and dryer for the homeless to clean their clothes.
To help minister to the youth at risk in their community Walk of Faith Fellowship operates a Teen Center where young people can come in off the streets to play fuze ball, ping pong, or pool. It is a safe place where the community youth can gather and be mentored befriended.
This group is so focused on impacting their community that they have hired one of their church members who is a social worker to serve on their staff on a stipend basis.
Pastor Kuehmichel finds it very rewarding and challenging to not merely be the church’s pastor but also to be the community’s pastor. The Walk of Faith Fellowship is a great example of what happens when members decide not to just go to church but to be the church.
For more information on the ministry of Walk of Faith Fellowship you can contact Pastor Kevin Kuehmichel at email@example.com.
• Life Skills Academy
The Montclair church in New Jersey has watched their community decline over the past few years. Situated in Essex county, the community has a very high cost of living and one of the highest housing markets in the country. However many of its residents are living below the poverty line, and there is a high rate of unemployment. A high percentage of the children and youth in the community are at risk for abuse, neglect, low academic achievement, and are involved with the criminal justice system.
The Montclair church in an attempt to minister to the felt needs of their community have implemented a project called Life Skills Academy. The project was the idea of its Pastor Paula Oliver. Pastor Oliver actually first experimented with the program when she was the associate pastor of the Church of the Oranges in 2007 where it was an outstanding success.
Life Skills Academy is a summer program that teaches teens leadership and equips them with practical life skills. The program meets for four and one half weeks, Monday through Thursday 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Enrollment is limited to high school students and local teens must apply to the program and come with recommendations. The evening sessions follow the ‘Survival Skills for Youth’ curriculum which is a nationally acclaimed curriculum which cover such vital topics as developing communication skills, money management, how to deal with conflict, developing study skills, and job interviewing skills.
Pastor Oliver has enlisted local community leaders in the program by bringing in local real estate agents to teach the students how to look for an apartment and how to read a lease, bankers who give instruction on developing a personal budget and managing a check book, and an auto mechanic who teaches them the basics of automotive maintenance. The night I visited she had a camera woman from one of the local television news stations there teaching the students skills in making a video.
Upon their graduation of the program each student was given a personal lap top computer to assist them in their school work. The response of the community has been terrific. The event has received considerable news coverage, and has put the Montclair church on the radar of local civic leaders and organizations.
Most importantly these young people are being impacted. Many of them report drastic improvement in their school grades following their participation in the program. For many of them and their families this is their first introduction to the Seventh-day Adventist church and Pastor Paula has become their personal mentor and pastor.
This program is a good model for other churches looking to minister to at risk youth in their communities.
For more information on this program you can contact Pastor Oliver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• La Esperanza Spanish
This New Jersey Conference church, led by Pastor Efrain Duany, takes Christ’s commission to ‘feed by sheep’ literally and figuratively. For over two years, they have provided groceries, life skills training and Bible studies to the community. So far congregants have served more than 50,000 individuals and nearly doubled their membership. For more information contact Pastor Duany at email@example.com
• Miracle Temple Church
This Allegheny East Conference church discovered that nearly 60% of their Baltimore community lives below poverty levels, and drug abuse is on the rise. In response to these community needs the church has formed Faith Center for Community Wellness and Advancement, a non-profit organization. They are partnering with Johns Hopkins Hospital in offering an afterschool program, a GED program, and exercise classes. Their most popular initiative, Healthy Heartbeats, provides hypertension prevention and treatment. Their annual health fairs provide blood pressure screenings, HIV and AIDS testing. For more information contact the church office at (410) 368-9294.
• Toledo First Church
This Ohio Conference church’s Haven of Hope project grew from an initiative of their Women’s Ministries department. Ladies from the church periodically provide spa days at a transitional home for mothers. When one resident found a place to live, church members performed their first extreme home makeover. The church has decided to form a nonprofit outreach arm for renovating homes for those in need. For more information contact the church office at (419) 882-6200 or toledofirstadventist.org.
• Pocono Grace
Eager to be a ‘community church’ in East Stroudsburg, these Pennsylvania Conference members visited with community leaders to identify specific needs and the level of assistance they could provide. The church now partners with local organizations and churches, which has opened lines of communication and established professional and personal relationships. Community projects include a community picnic and a green ministry which includes creating a community garden where residents can grow and harvest their own produce. For more information contact Jose Elvir (570) 426-8171.