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This Cup of Blessing - Issue #91

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Each Tuesday St. John’s United Methodist Church in Lubbock, Texas opens its doors an hour early and invites people, who come for food vouchers and legal aid, into the sanctuary for quiet prayer and Holy Communion. The sanctuary remains open for prayer and meditation as guests wait for their food voucher number to be called. Each month as many as four hundred people receive food for the soul as well as the body through this ministry.

It all started when the evangelism committee embraced the practice of radical hospitality and reexamined the existing ministries of the congregation. The church has a long established Tuesday program of serving the community through distributing food vouchers and providing legal aid. From the beginning of the ministry, the church determined that the food voucher and legal aid clients would be guests treated with respect; yet the evangelism committee realized that there was an opportunity to offer soul care as well.

The evangelism committee took the lead in organizing a new group of volunteers to offer this additional hospitality for the Tuesday program. The regular committed Tuesday volunteers continued their focus on processing requests for food vouchers and other forms of assistance.

The church has built relationships with many of the Tuesday guests, welcoming them by name and asking about family members. The economic downturn has resulted in an increase in the number of guests, and many bring children with them. Both the children and adults come with the anxiety of stretching resources to meet need. St. John's extends the hospitality of their nursery to offer childcare, allowing adult guests additional sanctuary time if they wish.

Some Questions for Discussion

  • How might your congregation more intentionally provide spiritual nourishment for those who participate in its ministries?

  • Are there ways that groups in your congregation could collaborate to extend spiritual care and build relationships with those who are the most vulnerable in your community?

Betsey Heavner is the Director of Leadership for Congregational Renewal at the Discipleship Ministries. She can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more about St. John’s UMC at www.stjohnslubbock.org.

In 2007 church leaders throughout The United Methodist Church in the U.S. were invited to identify churches that demonstrated the vision of discipleship described in the twelfth chapter of Romans. Over 200 churches were surveyed or visited. Issue #91. © 2011 Discipleship Ministries. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this page for use in United Methodist congregations.