Articles, opinions, and observations from a Baptist pastor in West Virginia
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Thinking Outside the Ministry Box
Like many of our aging churches, Central Baptist Church in Ashland has had a bright and storied past. Once a vibrant congregation in a working middle class neighborhood, Central Baptist has found itself in a community that has changed drastically.
While not what might be thought of as a typical "inner city" type church in some larger cities, Central is probably the closest thing to one in our neighboring town of Ashland, Kentucky (which is where I have lived for the past 36 years). For eight years I served as pastor of Ashland Baptist Church, just a few blocks from Central. I am very familiar with that community. Over the past 40 years, the area from Greenup Avenue stretching south down 29th Street has changed from the working middle class neighborhood it was, to more of a transient neighborhood. Houses that were once neat, tidy, well kept family homes have given way to blighted, poverty ridden, and drug and related crime problem area.
Like many of our urban churches, CBC had to come to grips with the fact that the changing demographics of the community, often aren't recognized until the situation is somewhat critical. Congregations age. Attendance wanes. Volunteer workers grow fewer, and if we are not careful, the once vibrant church becomes irrelevant in the community. Now, don;t get me wrong. Central has not become irrelevant. But it has had to come to grips with the fact that, like Dorothy discovered in OZ, "We're not in Kansas anymore". Our own church here is increasingly finding ourselves in a similar set of circumstances.
We can debate and argue about worship styles, programs, dress codes, and benevolent works, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we are called here to "Magnify God, Make Disciples, and Minister to People". That is our purpose. We must learn how to do all three in an increasingly post christian culture. It may involve "thinking outside the ministry box" and finding other ways to impact our communities for Christ.
That is what we want to do here. Perhaps we can gain some insight and pick up an idea or two from our sister church about 9 miles down the road in a neighboring town.
Below is a story about Central Baptist Church and what they are doing to try to impact their community for Christ. The story first appeared in "The Western Recorder" and was written by Myriah Snyder. Check it out.
ASHLAND, Ky. (Western Recorder) -- Central Baptist Church's new ministry center, Hope Central, has begun ministering to those in need in its surrounding community in a unique way.
The church looked at the neighborhood and wanted to do something more, something different than they have done in the past. They saw that by-and-large their community had needs, and they wanted to do more than meet "immediate needs," said children's minister and pastor's wife Renee Parsons.
"Everybody is meeting the immediate needs, but they are not really 'long-terming' it. It has created a society of dependency," Parsons commented. "We said, 'Okay, how do we stop doing that and start doing something much more productive?'"
Drawing from the cliché, "Stop giving them fish; start giving them poles," the church stopped giving out money, clothes and, largely, food. Instead, they pointed people to other ministries and resources throughout the area, and they began focusing on a new approach, Hope Central, located in a house next door to the church, Parsons shared.
Two of the main ministries the center will offer will be tutoring and an urban garden.
In cooperation with the public school system in Ashland, Hope Central will use volunteers to offer tutoring services and homework help. Teachers will choose children who need help after the first nine weeks. From 4-5 p.m. four days a week, up to 20 children will meet with tutors in reading and math. From 5-6 p.m., more tutors will be available for homework help.
The urban garden was birthed out of this ministry and is a project for youth at Central. They will apply scriptural truths to gardening, as well as use it for outreach, John Clark, Central's youth pastor, said.
In addition to growing a garden on the church grounds, they are starting a "pallet ministry," Clark said. Each pallet will contain a small garden.
Instead of giving people boxes of food, they will give them a pallet garden. The pallets will open doors for evangelism as volunteers develop relationships with the community.
"We're using our outreach to not just share the Gospel, but also help these people find what they need and get them the assistance they need to help better their lives and show them the love of Christ. It's just a blessing all round," Clark said.
The ministry center will be a hub for many things, including a place for the community to connect with other ministries that they may not have access to, otherwise. Central's VBS ministry will operate out of the center, as well as other services offering job placement or pregnancy crisis help.
The center, which has been in the works for a year and a half, will be fully functioning by October.
"This will be an awesome way to get these people some help, some love, and just give them Jesus," Clark added.
"The kids we are dealing with now are a generation of an already lost generation," he added. "If we don't make some drastic steps to go towards these children and make a difference in their lives, then what are we here for?"
This article appeared in the Western Recorder (westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Myriah Snyder is a news writer for the Western Recorder.