Every healthy church wants to love and reach their community. While some people are wired to make connections easily and naturally with strangers, others need specific opportunities to form relationships, especially with those outside of their church community. In our church plant, Sacred Space Church, community events and regular opportunities to serve provide chances to work alongside our neighbors, meet new people, and invite acquaintances into deeper conversations.
One way we do this is through a partnership between a local non-profit, Family Mentor Foundation, and two local elementary schools. Together, we provide meals to children who may not otherwise have food available over the weekend when they’re not in school.
The Family Mentor Foundation assembles packs of meals at wholesale cost with the help of volunteers and package them in school-friendly containers for easy distribution. The meals contain nutritious, kid-friendly, and convenient foods so that kids can prepare the meals themselves. They include breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit cups, lunches of macaroni and cheese and vegetable cups, and snacks of a granola bars and pudding cups. Kids who qualify for free or reduced price meals at school receive the packs. Sacred Space purchases the meals and coordinates distribution to schools each month. Each school provides a point person, most often a committed teacher, who ensures discrete distribution of the meals every Friday.
The meals cost only $3.50 to create, which allows us to invite our church and community into monthly sponsorship opportunities at only $14 per child. We have 29 non-Sacred Space Church givers to date and a few community members have helped with delivering the meals.
When I pick up my own kids on Fridays after school, I see some students walking to the bus with their weekend meals in hand. Every single time, I have to fight back tears. I am so grateful to be able to bless them in this way. I pray over them as they walk by that Jesus will reveal himself to them and that they will know how very loved they are!
When we planted the church, we already identified with the heartbeat of our community. We knew our community to be both generous and willing to serve.
Our family has lived in the same neighborhood for 15 years and I know that influences everything we do and allowed us to quickly form partnerships. When we planted the church, we already identified with the heartbeat of our community. We knew our community to be both generous and willing to serve, so it made sense for us to provide opportunities for connection that included giving and volunteering. Our community is also very family-friendly and cares deeply for children, so it made sense for us to form partnerships with organizations who care for kids. We believed that the Holy Spirit has placed these desires in the hearts of people who are not yet a part of our church or perhaps any church.
We want to be a friend in the good times, so we can also be a friend in hard times.
While a few visitors have found our church through these events, we are even more excited to be a friend to our community over a long period of time. Our community is fairly tight-knit and small, so trust takes time. We want to be a friend in the good times, so we can also be a friend in hard times.
Partnerships were a logical way for us to do this. Our wise sending Pastor encouraged us to determine what God was already doing in our community and join in. He encouraged us to bless other organizations by partnering with them instead of reinventing the wheel. God is the author of all good, so we need to find the good and bless it. I know this partnership is just the beginning and that God is using this opportunity in so many ways.
Erica Graff works as a Speech-Language Pathologist for Franklin County Board of Developmental Disabilities in addition to being a pastor of Sacred Space church. She and her husband Nate have been married for over 15 years and have 2 children attending Elementary School.