Visiting from House to House (Romans 12, Issue 262)
Visiting from House to House
What’s a church to do when it finds itself in a town with the highest rate of violent crime in its state, a place where even youth are shooting and killing one another?
In the summer of 2014, a new associate pastor and the people of Ardmore First United Methodist Church, Ardmore, Oklahoma, began a ministry of presence and prayer in an apartment complex known for violence and drug traffic. Teams from the church would meet at 3:30 p.m. each Sunday, then go door to door, knocking on doors in the building to offer a gift, to offer to pray with the folks they met, and to invite people to a free supper at the church that evening. If people came, they’d find themselves invited to sit at a table with the same folks who had visited them, to share a meal, and, if they wished, to stay for a brief service of worship and Bible teaching afterward.
This wasn’t to be a one-time thing. The same team would knock on the same doors, meet the same people, and offer consistent presence and prayer week after week.
The church had seven of its own members involved as the ministry began, but the vision quickly outgrew their capacity. They didn’t want to reach just one apartment building. They felt called to reach every home in the area. To do that required more people and more churches to become involved. Beginning in January 2015, Impact Ardmore, as they’ve come to call this ministry, moved into its second, larger phase of ministry.
Today, four congregations of several denominations plus individuals from several more, including some of the folks they have visited, have joined this ministry, enabling teams of two to visit in 184 homes, including three apartment complexes, every week.
Although this ministry was conceived as a ministry of presence and prayer, a side effect has been seen in attendance on Sunday mornings at Ardmore First UMC as well. In recent months, many of the guests and new members have been people reached through Impact Ardmore. And this “rich, white church” of the past now far more fully reflects the diversity of its community.
But more important to Brad Dery, the founding associate pastor, are the words they hear again and again from the folks they visit. “We’ve never seen church people that care this much and really love us.”
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How do people in your congregation live out the local church vows of prayers and presence not only in Sunday morning worship, but in your local community?
- If you or your congregation were to start a ministry of visiting from house to house, as John Wesley called leaders in the Methodist societies to do, where would you begin?
- What are you doing that leads people to say, "We’ve never seen such love"?
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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