Community Outreach an Important Part of Church MissionOct 31, 2019 01:04PM ● By Kathleen Ganster
Memorial Park High School IMPACT Mission Trip
Auto repair services, vegetables from gardens distributed or sold, painting houses and serving in mission projects both nationally and around the globe.
According to Phillip Huggins, pastoral counselor, Living Faith Baptist Church, “These are all ways that churches are serving beyond the four walls of the church.”
Located in Fombell, the organization is currently building a Living Faith Compassion Ministry Center in order to expand their existing ministries in counseling, auto repair and compassion ministry. The new building will feature two full-size auto bays complete with lifts where car repairs will be affordably repaired—often for just the cost of the parts.
“The ministry provides the labor. Those who are employed and financially struggling will be given priority,” Huggins said. The program is already in place, but its two certified mechanics must currently travel to other locations to complete the repairs.
The new center will include offices for professional counseling with services offered on a sliding scale based on government poverty guidelines. The church also assists with temporary housing for those in need of transitional shelter.
“We also help with other services such as securing employment, finding food and vehicles and other necessities,” Huggins said, adding that he believes that it is important for the church to serve others in practical ways.
“We want to help those who may be falling through the cracks. If you look at what Jesus did, we, as His church, should do the same and go to those in need,” he explained.
St. Richard Roman Catholic Church in Richland has several outreach ministries including preparing and serving meals for the homeless, collecting food for North Hills Community Outreach, purchasing children’s Christmas gifts for the Lighthouse Foundation, collecting books for the Children’s Home in Mars and hosting a local chapter of St. Vincent DePaul Society to serve Richland Township.
“People often think those in our area may not need these services, but we have families who do. We have trained workers who assess clients’ needs and assist with monetary and other donations in a totally private and confidential manner,” said Pastoral Associate Mary Jordan.
The church also financially supports an orphanage, nutrition center and hospital in Guatemala with some members of their parish going on mission trips there each year.
“We also have a team of about 150 people, including 100 teens, who go to Mullens, WV each year for a week to do mission work that may include putting on roofs, painting and other repairs,” Jordan said.
St. Richard also has a trained Stephen Ministry team that provides Christian caregiving for those needing support through life-changing situations. “This could include death, loss of a job, a divorce—anything that is life-altering,” Jordan explained.
Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in McCandless collaborates with more than 20 organizations to expand their reach, including North Hills Community Outreach, Allegheny Youth Development, Garfield Community Farm, and Living in Liberty, to name a few.
“One of the things that we try not to do is reinvent the wheel. So, when looking to serve a particular segment of the community, we love to partner with organizations that are already serving that population really well,” said Campus & Community Outreach Coordinator Sam Taylor.
Each spring, Memorial Park sponsors a churchwide day of service called Compassion Day where church members go into the community serving others through various projects including home repairs, car washes and more.
“As a church family, we have been blessed with a wealth of resources and we want to share these resources with the community, whether that’s through monetary gifts, material donations or giving of our time and skills,” Taylor said.
While these services are usually met with positive feedback, this isn’t always the case.
“Sometimes we experience a little bit of skepticism that what we’re offering is really free,” he said. “We had a gentleman who came to the free car wash we offered last Compassion Day who kept insisting that he pay for the car wash, while we insisted that it was really free. We give back without expectation.”
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church (UUC) of the North Hills in Franklin Park garden both at home and at a garden located on the church property to assist others.
“We grow vegetables in our Hunger Garden then offer them through our farm stand on Sundays for donations,” said Communications Team member Lou Bartolomucci. The money raised through the sales is donated equally to North Hills Community Outreach and to Northside Common Ministry.
“We donate to Northside Common because we want to reach beyond our own suburban area, but still reach close to home,” Bartolomucci said.
The Hunger Garden is planted and maintained by volunteers, and some church members will also bring extra produce from their own home gardens to add to the offerings.
UUC also sponsors a Friday night coffee house once a month, welcoming all members of the community for music and snacks. “It is a night where some of our members sing, play the guitar and tell stories,” said Bartolomucci. “It is just a chance to relax and take a break in this stressful world.”