Building Community, Living Into the Faith Together (Romans 12, Issue 257)
Issue 257 — November 25, 2015
Building Community, Living Into the Faith Together
Grace United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Illinois, served more than 1,700 lunchtime meals to the children and adults in the surrounding community last summer. The church also provided activities nearly every day, including arts and crafts on Fridays. Often, those activities were led by the church’s homeless guests who live in a 24/7 warming/cooling center housed in three no-longer used Sunday school rooms in the church building.
The lunchtime ministry began three years ago when a government-funded agency came to Grace UMC looking for a place to hold a free/reduced price lunch program during the summer. The church eagerly opened its doors to the community for this ministry.
For the first two years, Grace UMC worked alongside the government agency, providing the place and the people for this important ministry. However, over time, the congregation began to realize that working with a government agency comes with specific restrictions related to prayer and faith conversations.
In response, the mission committee at Grace came together and began to ask: “How can we do this ministry differently?”
As a result, the mission committee decided to take on the program entirely. They put the ministry in the church’s budget and began to make it their own ministry, independent of the government. What developed was the free lunch program that the church now follows with a time set apart for faith-based activities that are sponsored by the church’s discipleship team.
When they had worked with the government agency, the people at Grace had seen and experienced what this ministry might look like. Prayerful discernment and faithful work provided an opportunity for the congregation to open their doors to the community in a way that made space for them to share God’s story and the Christian faith.
The lunch ministry and the church’s homeless center allow people to share their gifts and work together in ministry. Every person is invited to share his or her gifts -- whether it is in food preparation or in leading activities that follow the meals.
By opening their doors to their community, Grace UMC provides a way for all of God’s children to join in ministry together, building community as they live into the faith together.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What are the needs in your community?
- How can you open your doors to the people in your neighborhood?
- What gifts do the people in your community bring to ministry with all of God's children?
Produced by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
These congregations are marked by:
- Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
- Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
- Nurture in growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
- Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable—the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
- Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the body of Christ.
- Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
- Shared clergy and lay leadership.
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