Unique and Innovative Ministries
As a pastor, what is the most unique and innovative ministry that you have seen? Maybe it’s a ministry that your church does that is unique to you, or maybe it’s something that you’ve heard of someone doing that is totally “out of the box.” I’d love to hear creative ways that people communicate the love of God and meet the needs of others.
We do a Friday night “Date Night!” Church begins at 6 PM and finishes at 7:05. We do children’s ministry during that hour and five minutes, then we watch their children until 9:45, which gives them a date night with free childcare. We did it for couples in the Air Force that were stationed in New Mexico without family to watch their children. So many of our military are sent away on temporary assignments leaving a single parent to watch their children. It’s these parents that are really taking advantage of Date Night. They were able to go shopping without children. They’re able to go out with their girlfriends to a movie or to experience some entertainment while we watch their children. We pay for the children to eat that night enabling the mother to get them to church in a timely manner. It’s our most expensive service, but it has yielded our fastest growing service and the most salvations of any of our three weekend services!
My favorite, by far, of the innovative ministries that we’ve engaged in over the years is what we call, “Free Market.” Similar to a “flea market” (a place people gather together with the intention of selling their most unwanted possessions), “Free Market” is a place where people gather together with the intention of GIVING their favorite and best possessions away FOR FREE!
We would spend a month preparing the people to bring their best to offer to the community for FREE – NO STRINGS ATTACHED (just like the love of God). We encourage members to pray together as a family and ask God to show them what they could do to be a blessing to others. Many families bring their living room furniture, their kitchen appliances, some bring articles of clothing, while others donate office furniture and exercise equipment. All of it is supposed to represent our best, not our junk. We clean up what needs to be cleaned and clear out the pieces that we would never want in our own home. Honestly, VERY LITTLE is ever considered “trash” by the crew that inventories all the donations. It is AMAZING what is brought as an offering to our community!
While people are prayerfully considering what they should GIVE, another team gets busy meeting with local humanitarian organizations in our communities. We invite organizations who work daily with the segment that represents our cities “most needy”, and we empower these organizations to deliver special tickets to qualified recipients. These “ticket holders” are given a 2 hour advantage over the rest of the community. They will be granted access to the fenced in area where all the offerings are displayed 2 FULL HOURS prior to the gates opening up to EVERYONE else. They are then informed that we are there just to help and serve them.
We have “trained shoppers” that assist people coming through the market, helping them locate items of specific interest. One year we hired a local high school football team (that had approached us regarding a fund raiser they were considering to help players make it to football camp). We enlisted them to load, haul, and deliver heavier items as a service to our Free Market shoppers. People LOVED on each other and many lives were changed!
We give away free hotdogs and popcorn and turn the event into a carnival! We make certain that every shopper has fun and feels celebrated, not like they are the needy looking for a handout. It is a BLAST!
We also learned that the greatest breakthroughs were occurring in our own lives, not in the lives of others. The strings attached that need to be broken aren’t on the minds of the receivers, but in the hearts of the GIVERS! Something broke within us as we helped people load our favorite possessions into vehicles that, more often than we had thought, are nicer than our own. When we deliver furniture to houses that seem to be filled with very nice furnishings already, we learn what “NO STRINGS ATTACHED” really means!
In many cases, we’ve witnessed people that have SO LITTLE take great caution in not taking “too much” in an effort to insure there is “enough to go around!” We have been blessed to SEE THE BEST come out of people everywhere we have looked!
Free Market has ALWAYS been a mind-blowing experience at our place. We’ve made certain to never repeat the event two years in a row, insuring that we don’t burnout the heart of the participants. However, every year that we announce that “it’s time, once again, to prepare for Free Market”—the buzz is ON!
Here are two things that we do—one is annually and one we do continually.
The day of the Super Bowl, we have several congregants (20) bring their favorite soup in crock pots. After the service, the congregation tastes the soups and votes for their favorite soup. The soup that gets the most votes is given the silver ladle trophy (to hold onto for one year). We have a field goal kicking competition for men, women and children. We have passing a football at a target competition for men, women and children, and we encourage the congregation to wear their favorite football team jersey. We pass out forms to see who can guess the score of the game, and the winner gets an autographed football by Pastor Barry. We used to have Super Bowl trivia questions and may do this again.
I teach twice a week at a Christian rehab in Danbury, CT. There are always about 15 guys in the program. New guys come all of the time since some graduate and some leave. Recently a man asked if I knew anyone who could give him a haircut. I was planning to take him to a local barber shop, but when I spoke to a man in the church, he told me that he cuts hair. The man knows the Word, has a history of drugs and alcohol and is incredibly nice. He went over to the rehab center and cut this man’s hair. While he was there, five other men asked him to cut their hair as well. This man now goes over to the rehab every other week and gives haircuts to whoever needs one. Because of his background, he knows where these men are coming from. Because he knows the Word and is evangelistic, he ministers to them as he cuts their hair. The guys in the program love this man and I do too.
We took out an ad in the erotic section of the newspaper (text only!) and winded up on the front page of the only National Sunday morning newspaper in French! We were on the whole front page and the third and fourth pages. They printed my message word for word. It was like we hit a bee’s nest! A tad bit too practical for the 500 year old Calvinistic culture. It put us on the map and caused quite the needed stir in our ministry. The church never quit growing after that. The text was “Sex, sex, sex: forbidden fruit? Certainly not. It‘s God’s idea. Come hear what the Bible says about our sexuality.” My Sunday morning text was 2 Tim. 3:2, in the last days men will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, and my title was “God First, Glands Later.”
Since 2014, Westchester Family Church in Mount Kisco, New York has partnered with Nova Nadja (New Hope) Church in Jesenik, Czech Republic to share the Gospel through teaching conversational English to children and teens. These day camps are used in countries in various parts of the world as an effective way of breaking into unreached communities. In some of these nations there is often a requirement for children to learn English in school. As with learning any language, practicing with native speakers seems most effective, yet in developing and emerging nations, having opportunity to spend time relationally to converse with native English speakers can be difficult, expensive, or rare. This five day camp uses a typical vacation Bible school format with learning English as a vehicle to share the Gospel through crafts, skits, dances, sporting games, and snacks leading up to a daily story time. In the story time which is usually broken up by age, children often receive Christ due to the Bible stories and testimonies shared by the native English speakers. On the last afternoon of the camp the native speakers and children share what they learned during the week with the parents. Refreshments are shared and relationship building occurs during this time with whole families. A simple Gospel message is presented, testimonies from the native speakers are given, and an invitation for the parents to receive Christ is also a key part.
This creative method of sharing the Gospel has been effective in teaching children of non- believing families, and in some cases, atheist families. Westchester Family Church has supported these camps by sending high school and college age young people to help run and facilitate these outreaches. Over the years we have seen this tool in the hands of the local church be a solid producer of fruit that lasts. In 2014 we started in one village; these camps have now expanded to three villages and a fourth will be added this summer. Some years we see children who have attended these camps in the past and have received Christ come back to help with the outreaches.
For information on how to start one of these outreaches or to support this project, contact Westchester Family Church (USA)—pastor firstname.lastname@example.org (ph: 914-954-5450). In Europe, contact Pastor Michal Ondruch—Nova Nadje church in Jesenik, Czech Republic—email@example.com.
In rural England where we live, churches immerse themselves into village life. One way that a local Christian group is working is through sports—mixing sport and Christianity to reach children and youth. Christian workers are engaging and creating opportunities to join Saturday football and other sporting events, which are creating a safe place for children and youth where teaching and Christian guidance is given. This has proven to be a huge success.
Also, outreaches to the elderly occur whereby a coffee morning is offered every two weeks which has proven very successful as relationships have developed and there is care amongst each other (something that my Mother enjoys).
As for us in our ministry, we are not so creative but carry on the old English ways of reaching people. I go to towns and villages preaching the Gospel, creating circuits for myself and other circuit preachers and gathering the people so churches can come along behind (just pleased we don’t have to travel on horseback like Wesley did ?).