Michigan Church’s Community Center a Neighborhood Hub
By Kim Ousley
Alma Church of God recently held their 14th annual “Rock the Block” party on the parking lot of the church and His Place Family Enrichment Center. Families were able to have a wonderful, free day of entertainment, food, and games. Bounce houses, petting zoo, games, hot dogs, and mini golf were on the long list of activities for the day.
Pastor Erin Taylor expressed her joy over the huge community gathering. “We’re right downtown on the strip with quaint shops and restaurants. That makes us well-positioned to create such a fun and high-energy event.” Around 500-plus neighbors came out to play for the day.
That’s not the only thing Alma Church of God is known for in the local area, though. Their presence as a church also extends to two other buildings, allowing for the His Kids after school program throughout the school year, as well as fitness classes, basketball in the gym, and coffee time in the newly remodeled family room.
Since 1983, His Place has been an outreach center for the community at large. The biggest focus is the after school program that provides grades 1 through 5 with stories, music, crafts, and fun games.
Chris Sipka has been the director for the center for twenty-five years. “At first, I served on the His Place board, volunteered with the after-school program, and taught fitness classes…. When I became the director, I brought my past experience directing children’s programs in Christian education, as well as a history of fitness instruction.”
Sipka finds great blessings in discovering new resources that meet the ever-changing needs in the community.
“It energizes me to see people experience physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and build friendships throughout their journey.” Observing the people striving to be that all God wants them to be brings her so much joy and is a very rewarding experience.
As she retires, a new director is stepping into a big job of running the center for the future soon. Steve Karp knew when he saw the job description in an advertisement online for His Place, he was “incredibly excited to learn about a ministry that seemed to be a perfect fit” for him. With his background in youth ministry and coaching sports, along with a long relationship with the Church of God, he couldn’t wait to pursue this and see what God had in store.
From meeting Chris Sipka, Pastor Erin and Dan, the team at His Place, and the leadership at Alma Church of God, it became clear that God was up to something, according to Karp.
“His Place has such a rich history with serving this community,” said Karp. “For thirty-eight years, this community center has reached this community in so many ways.” He plans to continue most of the programs that have been successful, including the His Kids afterschool program that has been operating for twenty-plus years.
“I plan to also add more sports camps and leagues, and we are planning to start a family night this winter.”
Sipka says her favorite memories include seeing kids accept Christ and grow up to be leaders and role models, leading Bible studies where women grew in their faith and friendships. “Watching students get stronger physically and have more energy to do what they enjoy and seeing families have fun together at special events has brought the community together to help those in need of encouragement.”
Pastor Taylor says there have been many volunteers both at the church and within the community that help make sure all these activities and events run smoothly. “It’s a great place to enjoy. We’ve had funeral meals, dance recitals, and basketball games within the center.”
One last thought from the former pastor, Steve Wimmer, who served for many years in the church and community of Alma, Michigan (and currently serves the congregation at South Meridian Church of God in Anderson, Indiana). “In the eighteen years that I had the privilege of serving as the senior pastor of Alma First Church of God, His Place community center was a primary way of connecting with and reaching out to the community. In fact, most people in the community knew of the church through His Place.”
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.