Just How Much Do Churches Need in Order to Serve the Poor?

KANSAS CITY, MO (July 8, 2015) — Churches don’t need nearly as many resources they might think to serve the poor and underserved in their communities. That was one of the key lessons learned recently during the Experience Kansas City tour at Gather 2015.

Pastor Alice

Pastor Alice

“What they need is the ability to find key partners and join where God is at work, and build bridges between organizations where no bridge may exist,” said Lee Jost, pastor of Christ the Servant Covenant Church and one of the trip leaders. “The overriding theme was the power of partnership.”

The tour included stops at four ministries in which Covenanters participate. The first, Hope Family Care Center, is a clinic serving the poor that was started six years ago by two doctors who attend Hillcrest Covenant Church. It serves hundreds of families each week, many of whom struggle with poor health because they live in urban food and healthcare deserts, according to Tom Kettler, a physician.

Hope Family Care Center is the only clinic for miles. The clinic has its own staff and also has doctors from a large suburban practice, College Park Family Care, who serve on rotation. Kettler said the clinic hopes to expand its services into Kansas City, Kansas.

The visit to True Light Family Resource Center highlighted a partnership of mutual ministry. True Light is a Nazarene church and mission located in Kansas City’s low-income urban core and serves the homeless by providing shelter, classes, and other resources.

Jed Hollenbach, pastor of Harvest Ridge Covenant Church, met True Light’s pastor, Alice Piggee-Wallack, at a program called “What If the Church,” which encourages congregations to partner in ministry.

Since being introduced, the two pastors have shared pulpits, celebrated baptisms together in a large community swimming pool, and their churches have engaged in activities together to serve the poor.

Trip participants also sat beneath the bridge where Freedom Covenant Church leads worship services for the homeless. The church set up the Worship Wagon and the group sang, prayed, and heard about the ministry’s vision from pastors Bruce McGregor and Melvin Cole.

“While we were worshiping, a homeless man came under the shade of the bridge to listen to the music and asked if there was any cold water to drink,” Jost said. “After being given water, he stayed to listen to the worship music.”

Jost led a discussion at Johnson County’s Evening Reporting Center, a county-community collaborative project that provides a positive alternative to incarceration for youth who have violated their probation and are at risk of being placed in detention facilities.

“These youth are not a risk to the community, but they are in need of positive role models and structure that will help them make more positive decisions in their lives,” Jost said.

Jost also shared that his congregation has ministered to prisoners by partnering with re-entry programs like Brother in Blue Reentry and offering parenting skills classes for families who have a member that has been incarcerated.

The tour wasn’t what one couple expected. They began to board the bus, thinking it was for a cultural tour of the city. When they learned otherwise, they decided to participate anyway and ended up seeing aspects of the city far beyond those listed in the visitors’ guides.

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About the Author

Stan Friedman is the news and online editor for the Covenant Companion and is grateful for the opportunity to serve in a job that combines his newspaper and pastoral ministry experience. He has been to 15 Bruce Springsteen concerts in four cities and listened to “Thunder Road” an average of at least once a day for 41 years.

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