// SUBMITTED BY PASTOR RANDY NELSON
After a couple of years at Peace Lutheran Church in St. Francis, Kansas, I began talking with the Elders about our Sunday Night Bible Study. It had been in place long before I came and so we continued the ministry, but attendance was minimal. We tried a number of things to increase attendance, but it just seemed to be a bad time for most and after three years, it was only two or three people coming—the same people who would come any time the church was open. We began praying about what we should do.
We also began looking for needs in our community that weren’t being met. By talking with people in our church and community, we found that there were a number of younger, unchurched families looking for family-friendly activities. There was also interest in gaining parenting skills and improving marriages. After discussing it, we met with several people in our church who we thought might be interested in helping to meet this need, but in a way that would also bring people closer to Christ. After discussing it with our church leadership and praying about taking this next step, we decided to launch what we called “Home Builders.”
Home Builders would meet on Sunday nights, beginning with a meal at 5pm–one family would provide the main dish and the other families would bring side dishes, with different families taking turns bringing the main dish. This helped to engage each family as well as spread out the burden of a meal to everyone. At 6pm, we then offered the Family Life video series called, “The Art of Parenting” for the adults, led by the pastor, and a “Sunday School” type program called “Kid’s Club” where some older members of the church met with the children of these mostly unchurched families and taught Bible lessons with crafts and activities.
What began with three families from our church quickly grew to 8 to 10 families each Sunday, including up to 25 kids, which was more than we had on Sunday mornings! It was exciting because not only was I able to build relationships with the parents as we talked about God’s views on parenting, but our women were sharing “brand new” Bible stories about God and His Love for us with the unchurched children. We did struggle a bit, at first, with the kids who weren’t used to sitting or listening in a church setting. However, we found that by increasing the staffing to a one adult for every three kids balance and by changing up activities frequently, things smoothed out rather well. As for the adult class, I found it helpful to have a couple of mature Christian couples in the class, along with myself as pastor, to offer counsel based experiences, which led to many candid discussions.
Over the next couple of years, this ministry continued to reach new people as the adult class went on to study “The Art of Marriage,” “Love and Respect,” and other similar materials. A number of those unchurched families ended up joining Peace Lutheran, leading to several baptisms of entire families. At the time we left St. Francis, this ministry was continuing, thanks to the commitment of several women and many of the couples who came to Christ through this ministry. From this experience, I was reminded of the importance of getting input from the congregation—listening to their concerns of where they think there is a need and empowering them to use their gifts and talents to meet that need. We found it valuable to consider what wasn’t working in our context and to be flexible to change and try something new. We took the time to see where there was evidence of God working and then joined Him in that work.