We equip clergy and laity for ministry in the 21st century to enable congregations to offer Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time.

 Feeding Ministry Inspires Clothing Ministry

clothing closet 3

Years ago, Saint Paul United Methodist church began serving the Manchester, TN, community through “Feed the Hungry.”  Once a month we prepared a supper, opened our doors, and invited the community to eat with us at Saint Paul.  This feeding ministry, though well supported by the congregation, never seemed to really grow.

Late one afternoon, Betty , a church member serving the meal, had an epiphany—that in addition to a meal, the diners also needed clothes. God opened Betty’s eyes to see a special need in our town.  Because of Betty’s observation, we started a new clothing ministry in our church. Driven by determination, a clear sense of mission, and a clear vision, Betty, with help from Pastor Asbhy, secured a few unused Sunday School rooms in the church basement to house the clothes, and launched our clothes closet in less than three weeks. Initially, the clothes came from Betty’s neighbors and friends as well as church members, but donations now come from many other sources.  It is a blessing to see clothes flow in and out of the basement as people visit the closet on the first and third Saturday of the month. Betty’s team grew with the ministry and two other church members began serving with her on these special Saturdays.

About three years into the mission to clothe our neighbors, Betty fell, breaking her right wrist and left femur.  Though this accident could have slowed her down or derailed her ministry efforts, it didn’t!  While in a nursing home for physical rehab, Betty reached out to the nurses for donations for the clothing closet.  Touched by her heart for “clothing the least of these,” they responded with bags and boxes of clothing.

Word about our clothing closet has spread throughout Manchester. Inspired by our story, members of another church in our community, Bell Springs Church, met with Betty, toured our basement, and started another clothing ministry. Knowing the impact this type of ministry has had on our congregation and our community, we were blessed to be a blessing.

At times, our members have worried about needing specific clothing items such as shoes and socks, but God has been faithful, providing exactly what we needed. Almost all the clothes we now receive are simply left at our basement door.  Our congregation seldom knows where these clothes come from, but we do know who sends them.  When we fret about a need, Betty reminds us not to worry; “The Lord is sending it!”

Many of the people we provided clothing now bring us items they want to share with others; clothes too small for their children or items they no longer need that would be useful to others.  This outpouring of generosity from those who have so little constantly amazes and inspires us to think of new ways to serve our community.

Saint Paul United Methodist sits on the side of a hill, surrounded by an elementary school and a nursing home, in a low-income neighborhood.  Both the children in the school and the adults in the home have many needs that, with God’s help, our members are determined to meet. Believing that God has put us exactly where he wants us to be, we are one of the 72, honored to be caring for the “least of these.”

72+U Ideas

  1. Look and listen carefully for new opportunities that God is placing in your path.
  2. Identify at least one specific reason you believe God has placed your church where it is in your community.
  3. Explore ways to enhance an existing ministry or birth a new ministry as an outflow of a current one by asking, “What else can we do?”
  4. Invite people outside your church to take part in your ministry.
  5. Teach other churches how to start a similar ministry. Collaborate to make each other successful.
  6. Pray, trusting that God will provide what you need.
  7. Stay focused.
  8. Share your story.

 Summer Program Awakens Intern’s Call for Ministry

Ali Sokolowski

As many people told me that good eventually comes from pain, I struggled to trust how a traumatic event in my childhood was part of God’s plan.  Broken and hurt, I questioned the church for many years. Until I met Vance Rains during my freshman year at Florida State University. Vance, Florida State University’s (FSU) former campus minister, saw in me what I couldn’t see in myself. As friend and mentor, he challenged me to seek God’s faithfulness instead of accepting complacency and hopelessness as a way of life.

Fueled by my search of God’s faithfulness, I decided to immerse myself in something new, something hope-filled in the upcoming summer. After a search of several options on the Internet and a conversation with a friend, I found Project Transformation, a ministry that engages young adults in purposeful leadership and ministry, supports underserved children and families, and connects churches to communities in need.  Captured by their mission, I quickly applied, and was accepted to be an intern for Summer 2013.

I arrived in Nashville, Tennessee, filled with reservations, fear, brokenness, and self-doubt, but God quickly showed me that as long as I was faithful to his call, he would do incredible things in and through me. As an intern, I worked alongside other young adults to plan and lead an eight-week summer literacy program for 80 children at Antioch United Methodist Church.  After just a few days, I witnessed children at Antioch relinquishing their own reservations and choosing to love boldly and fearlessly, as they learned and played together. Their courageous actions inspired me to let go of my own reservations because these incredible kids deserved every ounce of what I had to give.  During that summer at Antioch UMC, I fell in love with 80 children and God broke my heart while beautifully healing it at the very same time.

When summer ended, I returned to school on fire for following God’s call in my life, and for serving those in my community and inspiring my friends and family to join me. With the help of my peers at my FSU Wesley Foundation, I started an after-school program in a low-income community just five minutes from FSU’s campus. My internship at Project Transformation equipped me with the skills, confidence, and passion I needed to make this program possible.

During the summer of 2014, I returned to serve at Project Transformation as site coordinator, or lead intern, at Antioch UMC. Once again, I witnessed the beauty of transformation, the power of abundant grace, and the privilege we have to simply lean into God’s incredible plans for our lives.

Though I still struggle to see God in the moment of my childhood trauma, I am confident in the way he has been working in my life, bringing healing, restoration, and overwhelming joy to my soul through both people and opportunities. Through the 135 children I have served, learned from, and loved over the past two summers, the team at Project Transformation, supportive mentors and friends, my hope in the church has been restored. I confidently believe it is we, the people of the church, that have the power to drastically change the world around us.  God is already calling each and every one of us- all we have to do is listen, follow, and act in order to bring his kingdom here on Earth.  I am one of the 72.

Ali Sokolowski

72+U Idea:

  1. Listen to God.
  2. Find your passion.
  3. Connect with a ministry that values what you do.
  4. Serve often, improving the skills you have and discovering new ones for future ministry.
  5. Seek out mentors to guide you.
  6. Become a better leader through taking risks and garnering feedback.
  7. Find a new mission field to implement what you’ve learned.
  8. Share your story.

Discover key principles for equipping. To access the Equip training components in Dropbox, click here.

Share your Equip story at [email protected].