Riverside Church: A Trusted Neighbor of Oregon Community
By Adrian D. Powell
Many churches have a mission statement, as well as a set of core values, that they use to keep focus as they work out their mission. Riverside Community Church of God in Cottage Grove, Oregon, puts their mission statement into action by engaging the community where it has the greatest impact, particularly in the Pacific Northwest during and following this year’s wildfire outbreak.
“We started a clothes closet to provide for the needs of the students at the high school next door to the church,” Pastor Andrew Loyd says. “That had been going well for a couple of years, and we decided to open it to everyone in September of this year.” With excitement, he explains what happened next. “The first week it opened was the same week that fires began in the area, so the first families we got to minister to were families who were personally safe, but had literally lost everything in the fire. We were able to provide them with toiletries and a bunch of clothes, helping to replace some of what they had lost in the fire.”
Pastor Loyd explains that “there are a lot of broken families in the community due to a high poverty rate. The clothes closet was originally an outreach program to the students next door.” He continues, “We’ve been trying to dream bigger, so this September we decided to launch it as a giant, family-wide outreach. There have been a lot of people just donating with no connection to the church, some really nice stuff, too!”
Like all churches across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on their ability to meet as a body. “This summer we decided to do the best that we could do, regardless of how things might look. And the best thing we could do for the community was show them we love them. Regardless of fires or whatever else is going on, we want them to look at our building and be able to say, ‘We know that we know they love our community.’”
It’s not just clothing that Riverside provides. They have expanded their programming for the youth of the area by providing a youth center for them to drop in, as well as a place for parents to leave their teens when they have to go to work. “We restructured our Internet and youth area and partnered with some other churches in town so people can drop off their kids here and they can work on their school online. Our youth pastor Kyle McGowen and another youth pastor, as well as some of our background-checked volunteers, hang out with the kids to provide space with computers and good Internet connections to help take care of the needs of both children and their parents, without charge.”
Even as they have had to innovate and change with the times, their mission has stayed the same. “Our mission statement is based on the Great Commission, that is, ‘Connecting People to Christ,’ and how we do that is ‘Through Service and Love.’ Our gathering on Sunday morning has always been the focus and will never go away, but what does it mean to grow in your discipleship journey? In a small group of people who all know your name we try to apply the ‘Cheers’ method, where you can come, and everyone knows your name. And we believe that’s what outreach and discipleship looks like.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of recent crises:
Adrian Powell is pastor of Faith Community Church of God in Grove City, Ohio. He has been published in the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Call and Post, Columbus Post, and Vital Christianity, and has authored two books—The Jubilee Harvest and Resident Aliens: A Living Faith in a Hostile World, available at Amazon.com.