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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.