Nebraska Church Builds Reputation for Service
By Kim Ousley
Smaller churches, especially in rural settings, can face particular hurdles when reaching out to the community around them. Sometimes distance can lead to disconnection to the community. Fellowship Community Church of God in Lincoln, Nebraska, is one smaller church striving to find creative ways to reach out and minister to a more diverse culture popping up around them, as new housing developments pop up and people move into the neighborhood.
Brian Smith, new pastor of Fellowship Community Church of God, has been a catalyst for outreach this summer. He implemented “Summer Serve Days” in three different segments that were manageable for his congregation.
“Summer Serve Days was a direct attempt without completely overwhelming them,” said Smith. “We wanted it to be something they could experience some wins with, and it doesn’t have to be grandiose.”
Three events recently were completed: Trash Pick-Up Day, a School Supply Drive, and a Give and Takeout Day. Each event turned out to be a very positive experience for both volunteers and community members.
Smith shares that it’s definitely a turnaround situation. “When interviewing with these guys, they shared a desire to grow and reach the community.” They had tried other projects in the past, but were seeking greater impact; previous projects didn’t build as many new relationships as they had hoped, nor did they bear as much fruit as they had desired.
But this year, they kicked things off with a back-to-school drive for teachers and staff at a local elementary school. Pershing Elementary School, one of three elementary schools near the church, struggled the most. “We collected and provided 15 humongous hand sanitizers and 30 packs of markers, as well as 97 boxes of tissues. We received a big thank-you card from them.”
Trash Pick-Up Day turned out to be a fun learning experience. Smith said eight people participated in the event. They partnered with Lincoln Parks and Recreation to pick up trash along the David Murdock Trail. Water and trash bags were provided. Everyone enjoyed a gorgeous day and took their time, going at their own pace. Ultimately, discipleship was modeled that day.
The third event took place recently, providing the congregation a chance to get to know the people around them better. Give and Takeout Day was created to have a community blood draw and allow local food trucks to serve delicious food to those giving blood.
“We partnered up with local blood bank mobile unit in the parking lot of the church,” shares Smith. “The Kiwanis club gave out free T-shirts that memorialized a police officer who died in the line of duty.”
Four local food trucks set up in the church parking lot. Thirty-eight people gave blood, eight being new donors, allowing them to reach 133 percent of their goal for the day. “Conversations with some of the food truck vendors in the parking lot were about dreaming about future partnerships and events where we could potentially put on together.”
Overall, the church has not been especially well-known in the community, so Smith is encouraging and building upon each established relationship, as well as new ones. Thirty years ago, Smith said the church building was on the edge of the city limits. But now the city limits have new housing unites going up all around them. “New buildings are going up like crazy,” share Smith. “We’re an older congregation but have new folks are calling this place home now. We just had two young ladies get baptized!”
Smith lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife Jennifer, and two sons, Wyatt (16) and Marshall (11 at the end of September).
Kim Ousley is a freelance writer from Anderson, Indiana.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.