If you go to a certain Steak n’ Shake in Fort Myers, Fla., late on a Wednesday night, you may find a group of people with almost nothing in common – except for a desire to learn about God.
Rich Schnieders, founding pastor of Friendship Grace Brethren Church, and his son-in-law and pastoral intern, Brian Murray, lead a Bible study and prayer gathering called After Hours.
The gathering was created with the vision to provide a time to study God’s Word for those with crazy work schedules or who may not yet be comfortable with attending traditional church on a Sunday morning.
Murray, currently in his first year of seminary, works in a deli in a local supermarket with changing shifts. He was looking for flexible fellowship with his coworkers and friends.
“Brian is the primary leader in teaching the Bible study. He is the shepherd of the group, and he follows up with them and provides pastoral care. I serve as his backup and give direction,” explains Schnieders.
“I believe that we are learning a great deal about providing ministry opportunities to be used for training. We have had to alter our teaching approach to fit the needs of the people involved in the gatherings without compromising our approach to the Biblical text. This has been valuable for Brian to learn how to teach outside of the normal confines of the church,” says Schnieders. “By the time he graduates seminary he will be a very well-rounded pastor.”
Additionally, Schnieders and Murray have found that meeting in a restaurant affords opportunities for unchurched people to join as God sees fit.
“The gathering has provided a way for us to develop a relationship with some of the restaurant staff. Sometimes they even take their breaks to sit down with us,” Schnieders says.
As Murray’s mentor, Schnieders has enjoyed seeing him develop in his role as leader of the group.
“One of the regular attendees to After Hours is a lady with purple mohawk hair and a colorful personality. She often brings young adults who do not feel comfortable coming to church but are comfortable with coming to After Hours. Her significant other is now a regular as well, and we are watching them develop into true followers of Jesus. They both have turned to Brian for guidance and direction. It certainly looks to me like they see Brian as their pastor,” shares Schnieders.
Murray and Schnieders are not yet sure what else God is going to do with this ministry, but they are hopeful for the ministry to continue.
“We expect that many of the people who participate in After Hours may never be regular attendees on Sunday morning, and that is okay,” says Schnieders. “We desire to go where they need us to be when they need us to be there.”
[Connect:] Click here to send a note of encouragement to Murray and Schneider as they continue to minister to the unchurched.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Charis Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches), click here.