The Power of Unrestricted Ministry: A Church’s Secret to Missional Success

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes, Loving and Serving

By Kevin Spear

When he became senior pastor of Germantown First Church of God, Pastor Brandon Holbrook knew this was an outreached-focused church. “This church has a long history of missions, not just locally, but that was certainly a big part of her history. Yet, this is a community-oriented church.”

As a result, when Pastor Holbrook became her senior pastor in 2018, he wanted to continue the rich, outreached-focused ministry. Based on his first impressions, his first goal was to partner with local organizations and businesses.

The local partnerships have benefited Germantown, Ohio. One of their most effective local programs is “Sonshine in a Bag.” Germantown First Church of God parishioners noticed food scarcity was an issue in their community—the church partners with a local restaurant and deli. The Lions and Rotary Clubs also donate. Volunteers devote the first and third Thursday of each month to packing bags of food for children facing food scarcity. They then deliver the bags to the local school.

But during the COVID pandemic, the church had to react quickly to pivot. Pastor Holbrook said, “In March 2020, we lost our means to get food to students when schools shut down. But we knew the need was greater than ever.” The church brainstormed how to help. In partnership with the schools, the church delivered much-needed food to homes. “We want to love the community and bring the best of our ability and resources to them. In the summer of 2020, we handed out 10,000 meals to needy families.”

A second local ministry Germantown First Church of God has is Beyond the Walls. The program is an umbrella for three ministries: Care bags for children in foster care, support for a local women’s shelter, and partnership with a pregnancy center. At its core, these three ministries intend to care for women and children who have fallen victim to human trafficking. Pastor Holbrook observed, “Our parishioners have taken the lead. They asked, ‘How do we help those that have fallen victim to human trafficking?’ The leaders have ensured these ministries are kept before the congregation.”

International outreach is a front-and-center emphasis at Germantown First Church of God.

Pastor Holbrook credits his missions pastor with the church’s stellar outreach. “Ruby Harp has been the missions pastor since 2010,” says Pastor Holbrook. “Thanks to her leadership, our church partners with a wide range of local and global ministries. We partner with missionaries in Spain, Germany, Italy, Hungary, the Middle East, Guatemala, and Africa. Ministry is best in relationships. Our missions team is diligent in staying connected with the missionaries. We also go one step further. Pastor Ruby and I work to help our congregation connect with our missionaries.”

Pastor Holbrook advises churches to keep missions at the forefront of their ministry. He emphasizes how important missions are to be effective in a post-Christian world. “Today, you have to do things differently. And part of that is unrestricted ministry—we must minister to others outside with no strings attached. The world can look at a missions-focused church and observe it doing something good for their community and the world.”

He urges pastors to make missions a priority. That includes messaging in the lobby as well as from the pulpit. One subtle change his church took was to take a missions section off to the lobby and make it more prominent. They also build relationships with missionaries and invite them to speak at the church. He advises pastors, “It’s critical to lead your congregation in understanding the Great Commission and help them catch the vision. You can’t be an effective church today if you are insular and not outward-focused.”

Kevin Spear worked for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, a kid’s director for the Christ Fellowship Church—Westlake, Florida, campus.

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