Who is God calling your church to reach? If you’re like a lot of people, you’ll say it’s for all people. However, the reality is that it usually is for people like those already attending. Monson Community United Methodist Church, in South Bend, IN, is an exception to this rule. The church, led by its pastor Tim Aydelotte, had a vision for becoming a church for all people. What they really meant by that is to become a church that reaches those who have been forgotten, who live on the margins, who are living on life’s edge (my words, not theirs).
So earlier this year, with the help of a Conference Church Development grant and the blessings of the district superintendent, the church began renting a storefront on South Bend’s west side. It named the space the Keith Giden Community Outreach Center, after a man who went from what he called the “wrong side of the tracks” to the “right side of the tracks.” He recently passed away as a result of a battle with cancer and it was his dream to create a ministry center that helped those who grew up the way he did. And now the center offers free meals, dances for “all abilities,” free movie nights, a “Get Out of the House” fellowship time for all ages, as well as Bible and Brew, Joshua’s Men, and a weekly prayer group.
After visiting a similar ministry in Columbus, OH, named the Church for All People (a United Methodist ministry), Pastor Tim and the Monson Community leaders launched their own Sunday morning congregation called, The Church for All People, South Bend. It meets weekly on Sunday mornings at the Keith Giden Community Outreach Center. Last Sunday’s service had 70 people of all ages, economic status, and colors–blacks, whites, and Hispanics–ages (one-third were children), first-time guests and regular attenders, all seated around tables.
Worship music was led by i-Worship videos. People requested prayers for new jobs, sobriety, a party for a 15-year-old friend that was disrupted by “gang bangers,” and for people with health concerns. There was a “working” sermon time where everyone changed tables and worked together on an assignment related to the stewardship message. There was also a single Hispanic woman and two of her children who joined the church.
The bottom line is that it felt like a big family gathering that included middle-aged black men hugging an 80-year-old white church matriarch, a young white man who had come off the street, and folks living from budget to budget. It embodied Keith Giden’s vision.
Although it isn’t a church for everyone, not everyone will want such a church experience, it is a church whose posture is a warm heart with open arms to anyone who is looking for the Good news of Jesus Christ and a loving family.
— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development