Ministry Breakthrough: Spring Lake Wesleyan Church, Spring Lake, Mich.
The January/February 2010 issue of Outreach magazine profiled stories of ministry breakthroughs. In the following excerpt. Michigan’s Spring Lake Wesleyan Church leveraged a study of the Good Samaritan to mobilize the congregation to take on societal problems.
“Our whole church has learned about social issues like AIDS, poverty, the environment—that we can bring the Gospel to people we often miss.”
–Lead Pastor Peter Yoshonis
Jennifer Boodt views her past experiences with Christians as mostly negative. But because of her interest in social justice and an invitation from her neighbor, the schoolteacher joined a small group in October at Michigan’s Spring Lake Wesleyan Church studying the new series start> Becoming a Good Samaritan (Zondervan).
Boodt’s group, as well as every ministry and small group in the church of 1,000, went through the study, which focuses on the needs of people worldwide and how Christians can help by becoming Good Samaritans wherever they live.
Since joining the group, Boodt has begun exploring Christianity. “I loved the series,” she says. “I didn’t necessarily have to be a Christian to be pulled emotionally or called to do something. And it was great to see how the people in the small group were really affected. They really wanted to do something.
The study powerfully influenced the church as a whole, increasing participation in small groups by 50 percent and raising awareness of and involvement with many social problems to a new level.
“I’m trying every day to get people in our church to pay attention to what’s going on beyond the walls of this place,” explains Dave Horne, Spring Lake’s outreach and teaching pastor. “This series, like nothing else, helped me to do that.”
During the six-week series, participation in small groups at Spring Lake rose from 400 to 600. Moved to action, small groups launched a mobile food pantry, raked yards in low-income neighborhoods, organized a coat drive and helped teach children to read, among other activities.
About 100 volunteers signed up for the church’s mobile food pantry, which to date has distributed more than 5,000 pounds of food.
“It got to a point that we had more volunteers than we needed, and that’s not typical,” Lead Pastor Peter Yoshonis notes.
Horne believes that the series moved the church membership because church leaders echoed its ideas during Sunday services.
“They were blown away by all these people who loved Jesus and have this radical passion to make the world a better place,” Horne says.
Horne invited Boodt, his neighbor, to participate in the study. Not only did she have positive experiences with Christians, but she also participated in the church’s coat drive. Now she says she’s more open to Christianity than ever before.
While Boodt’s perceptions of Christians are changing, Jennifer Mason’s perception of needy people has transformed. A mother of three who has attended Spring Lake for 10 years, Mason says she used to be quick to judge homeless people. She is also now working to raise awareness about human trafficking.
“Our whole church has learned about social issues like AIDS, poverty, the environment—that we can bring the Gospel to people we often miss,” Yoshonis says.
Also featured in the January/February 2010 issue of Outreach magazine:
- How a bivocational pastor’s new vision revived a waning church.
- How the power of prayer is creating new opportunities for outreach and evangelism.
- How a small-town church increased its visibility and influence in the community.
- How a rural church led the way in racial reconciliation.
For information on how you can order a copy, e-mail Outreach.
To receive practical, church-tested tips and inspirational stories throughout the year, subscribe to Outreach magazine. In addition to six idea-packed issues you will receive the Outreach 100 bonus issue featuring America’s 100 Largest and 100 Fastest-Growing Churches.
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