By Kim Plummer Krull
After members of Faith Lutheran Church participated in a workshop to better tune into needs in their Groton, Conn., neighborhood, the congregation started a food kitchen that now serves more than 75 families weekly. Two years later, Faith hosted another “Planting Gospel Seeds While Serving Human Needs” training session to help other New England District congregations enhance outreach.
Nine congregations from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Connecticut took part in the Oct. 30 workshop, which included practicing what Rev. Carlos Hernandez calls Jesus’ community outreach method to assess the needs and assets of “every town and place where He Himself was about to come” (Luke 10:1).
“Eight teams canvassed the neighborhoods around Faith, asking residents how the congregation might better serve the community,” said Hernandez, director of Districts and Congregations with LCMS World Relief and Human Care, who led the Planting Gospel Seeds workshop. Since he began the workshops in 1999, Hernandez has helped more than 100 LCMS congregations combine mercy and mission by learning to identify body-and-soul needs and reach out beyond church doors.
Each workshop includes door-to-door interviews where congregation members ask residents about their neighborhood’s most critical needs. They also ask how their church might better serve their community.
Joseph Jobst, a member of Messiah Lutheran Church, Lynnfield, Mass., called the one-day workshop “a wonderful training that provided insight and motivation for strengthening communities by building relationships in Christ.”
Knocking on doors and listening to neighbors prompted Faith members to start their FAMILY (Forget About Me, I Love You) Kitchen in their church hall.
“Faith is serving a critical need in its community and, in the process, getting known in Groton as a caring church,” Hernandez said. “Their Sunday worship attendance has increased, and members feel they are turning the corner and moving beyond the struggle to exist as a viable, mission-focused congregation.”
Two years after their first Planting Gospel Seeds workshop, Faith members still go out into their neighborhood to do monthly surveys. When Hernandez asked how long they planned to continue the community canvassing, the members replied, in unison, “Until Jesus comes!”
Kim Plummer Krull is a freelance writer and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted Nov. 4, 2010