Kids come first at The Happy Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Jackson, Ky. Michael Tabor, senior pastor, and his wife, Connie, have spent the last 17 years witnessing to children and their families in the poorest region of the U.S.: eastern Kentucky.
The kids at this Appalachian church come from many backgrounds, and almost all of them live in tough situations. Most of them come from drug-affected homes.
Mike and Connie’s goal, though, is to show the kids exactly what their value is in God’s kingdom.
The church runs many ministries throughout the year, ranging from meeting physical needs to spiritual ones. At Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, they provide meal baskets for children and their families. The church also provides shoes, bookbags, and supplies each new school year, and each winter they give out coats. At Christmas, people from various churches can also buy gifts for a child they “adopt.”
But through it all, their goal is to reach into these families’ lives to make a way for the gospel to be preached.
“We try to meet the physical need so we can address the spiritual one. As a kid, you don’t realize you’re in a poor area, but as a teenager, you see you have few opportunities. You lose hope,” says Mike.
Bible quizzing, a program that is losing popularity among many churches, allows Connie the chance to encourage the kids to learn Scripture and give them hope. Through the program, the students also learn a good work ethic, which can help them escape poverty.
“You have to set them up for success by giving them short-term rewards and long-term rewards for delayed gratification. Especially here, in Appalachia, they don’t understand that education is important. They see no benefit to working hard because there are few jobs here. If you want a good job, you usually have to move away, but to do that you have to have the confidence you can do a good job,” says Mike.
As a result of this program, The Happy Church has seven national Bible quizzers and a plethora of ribbons, trophies, and plaques. Kids have come out of the toughest situations and have learned to hide God’s Word in their hearts.
“We invest in them, and we love on them. God has blessed us like crazy,” Mike says.
In addition to programs at the church that give the kids good support systems and teach them important lessons, The Happy Church also has a higher education scholarship fund. A woman originally from the area started the scholarship herself, but now the rest of the congregation is contributing to it. This scholarship is currently helping three kids through college.
“In pushing and encouraging these kids, we show them they’re just as capable as anyone, anywhere,” says Mike.
Because of this impactful witness, everyone in the area can see that The Happy Church truly cares about the community.
“We have a great base of staff and volunteers, a great campus, and great numbers for where we are,” says Mike.
“We love what we’re doing,” adds Connie. “God has been good to us.”
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.