Blessing nurses in the local public schools and gathering Christian business women in the community for networking, fellowship, and encouragement are just two ways members of the Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church (Winona Lake, Ind., Bruce Barlow, lead pastor) have creatively put the words of Jesus “to go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:16-20) into practice.
It is all a part of a special grant program that was announced in 2018 as the church celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Up to ten $1,000 Blessing our Community Grants were made available to church members who had unique ideas to minister to the community. The funds came from a church budget line called “Local Initiatives.” After reviewing grant applications, nine $1,000 grants were awarded, as well as three $500 grants and two $250 grants.
Church members and attendees were encouraged to develop creative ideas to “love the world locally.” To be considered, the idea had to focus on building relationships (not just donating money), have potential to be an ongoing ministry versus once-and-done, and the applicant would be responsible for taking ownership of the initiative.
As the congregation celebrated its diamond anniversary with a special service at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center on the campus of Grace College last October, the recipients of the grants were announced. Among the beneficiaries were three local school teachers and 11 church members. The dream of reaching the Winona Lake and Warsaw communities was becoming a reality and new ministries were being set into motion.
Pam Carroll, a member of Winona Lake GBC, and three other women were burdened for local school nurses, who many times pay for supplies out their own pockets. The group gave $100 to eleven nurses of different public schools and were able to pray for with each one in the process. One of the nurses began attending the church as a result.
Other educators used grant money to provide cookouts for families whose children attend nearby Jefferson Elementary (a Title 1 school), begin a resource group for student mothers at the high school, and to develop a group which encourages and supports parents/guardians of 5th-grade students at Lincoln Elementary by teaching basic life skills.
The remaining grants were used in various ways to reach the community. Gladys Deloe used funds to rent a space for a new ministry called “Women in the Workplace.” Created to support Christian, working women, the monthly lunch program equips them with tools on how to be a witness for Christ in the workplace, and to build relationships. The sessions began in February and have since outgrown their rental space with more than 60 women in attendance. The group continues to meet at “The Hub,” which is Winona Lake GBC’s community building.
The creativity didn’t end there. Other initiatives included ministering to families of young athletes, providing frozen and ready-made meals to families in need, providing meals for migrant workers, creating clean-up kits for volunteers to use to help those who have been affected by a natural disaster such as flooding, and providing care for foster parents.
It’s been nearly six months since many of these ministries have started and some have plans to go on to a second phase.
[Connect:] How can your church reach your local community? Visit Winona Lake GBC’s website to read the scholarship application. Email Dave Rank (pastor of community impact) for more information on the program.