New York Church Named “Best of the Best” in Church Category
By Julie Campbell
How does a church win the local newspaper’s “Best of the Best” award in a town of 30,000 with at least fifty other churches? One glance at Busti Church of God’s Facebook page reveals the answer. Despite the current pandemic, this Jamestown, New York, congregation has a vibrant, thriving outreach to the community.
“We were so excited that the people in our community viewed us in such a way to vote for us to receive such a prestigious award,” said Roy Ferguson, senior pastor who has led the church for over twenty-five years.
The church has been a popular community gathering place since the early 2000s when they built a large playground and softball/youth baseball field, and made it available for local teams to use. But the construction of a Family Life Center in 2009 opened up even more opportunities for community engagement.
“We reached out to community organizations like local schools, town government, homeschooling organizations, and the community, in general, to let them know that our facility was available to the public,” explained Pastor Roy. “Our local school district has bussed high schoolers to our facility for Advance Placement exams; they have used it for sports award banquets, senior all-nighters, and cast parties for the school musical. Our local township has used our facility for town hall gatherings, and the public uses it for baby and bridal showers and birthday events for a donation. Until this year, we have been community leaders in providing an Upward basketball and cheerleading league for children from 1st grade to 8th grade, partnering with as many as three other churches to do so.”
With the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, children’s pastor Jean Brown has had to think outside the box.
“We are not yet able to open up our traditional kid’s programs, so we have had to pivot,” she said. “We have transitioned from a children’s ministry into more of a family ministry. So, instead of having a separate kid’s program on Sunday morning, we have a family service in our gym at the same time as our later service.”
Pastor Jean strives to make the family service interactive, which often means pulling parents on stage to participate in a game or having kids come up to help re-tell a Bible story. On a recent Sunday in November, families made “thankful trees” to take home for their Thanksgiving tables.
The kids’ ministry is also partnering with the local Love, Inc. ministry to meet the needs of neighbors in their community.
“We are currently doing the $5 ‘Ramp It Up! Challenge.’ Each child was given $5 to use in any way that they wanted to make money for a wheelchair ramp for a farmer who lost his leg,” explained Jean. “Kids are doing all kinds of things with the money to raise more money, like baking things and making crafts like gift tags to sell.”
The creativity of the staff at Busti Church of God has been the key to reaching the community during these unprecedented times. Early in the pandemic, they enlisted the help of twenty-two church families to take a list of fifteen to twenty names and make weekly phone calls, send text messages, and e-mails to encourage, connect, and pray with the people on their list.
“We also started a ‘Food for Heroes’ fund to take breakfast and lunch to our local hospital, nursing homes, police and sheriff, as well as EMS and fire departments throughout the spring and summer,” said Pastor Roy. “We did a drive-in Bible school, which might have been the only one in our area.”
A few more of the creative, safe activities have included hosting a night for families in the community to utilize the church’s large parking lot to ride their bikes, scooters, and skateboards, and a “pumpkin-chucking” event, which was one of Pastor Roy’s personal favorites.
All this fun has a point, though, and that is to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
“We have an opportunity to minister to our neighbors that is unprecedented in our lifetime,” said Pastor Jean. “Families have gone from being so busy that they can’t fit another thing in, to looking for things to do! Sadly, they are also feeling stress in ways like they never have before, but that is an opportunity for the church to step up and meet needs…to build relationships with people that may never have been interested before.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled white boxer.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
*Feature (top) photo: Church team out delivering food to community heroes.