As the Service Deacons, we accept the role of being the hands and feet of the church. We do this specifically by administering benevolence support to our members and those around us in our communities. Additionally, we partner with Community Church in the Godwin Heights neighborhood. This relationship allows us to send our benevolence support further with directed intention. Over the past year, we have had an unusually low number of assistance requests. Until recently, the government imposed an eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic to help individuals stay in rented homes. Since the end of this temporary law, we have seen an increase in requests.
We are grateful for a capable benevolence fund. The generosity of our congregation has enabled us to help many. From June through September, we have assisted 17 individuals and families with various requests for rent, utilities, medical bills, auto repair, etc. There have been many requests for housing/homelessness in recent months that reach beyond our scope. In response, the deacons have been educating and directing requestors to various agencies, COVID-19 relief programs, etc., in circumstances where those agencies can better support a person’s request.
The Service Deacons have also put together a grant-based program coined “Striving to Thriving” to help individuals take steps toward a better life situation—from gaining a trade certification to kicking off the start of an effort to achieve a more stable job or career. The intention is not to repair a roof or cover rent, which the classic benevolence support request may fill. Instead, this support is a more considerable sum to help someone who has the drive and ability but needs the financial means to take their next step. This program is just starting, and we are currently focusing on individuals in the Community Church family as a trial.
The deacons reduced the number of partner ministries we partner with each year to develop more engagement between the church and these ministries. While there are many essential ministries in the Grand Rapids area that we can and should support, the deacons chose to partner with five ministries. Each two-month period focuses on one of these ministry partners. Pastor Bill shares details of these ministries from the pulpit and how we can partner with the ministry—as a congregation and individuals. We’ve reserved the remaining two months of the year for missionaries and Christmas preparation and celebrations. In 2021, the five partner ministries include:
- Community CRC (Shelley Toren, Ashley Velzen)
- Grand Rapids Dream Center (Mark Lautenbach)
- Safe Families for Children (Tricia Dodds, Jeff Pluymert)
- Tall Turf Ministries (Neil Kuyvenhoven, Matt Jen)
- West Michigan Friendship center (Mark Lindholm, Brandon Quist)
The monthly mobile food pantry continues to offer a great place for volunteers to offer their hearts in service on the first Monday of every month. Prayer volunteers arrive at 3:30 pm to chat and, if desired, pray with clients in their cars. Registration begins at 4:30, when our food distribution volunteers arrive to start sorting and organizing food. Our funds provide for the pantries at both Cascade Fellowship and Community CRC. Over the last 12 months, Cascade Fellowship’s mobile food pantry served an average of 86 households, equating to 286 individuals each month. If you’re interested in serving at the food pantry, join us sometime! Many hands make the opportunity more fun, and most times, the job is complete by 5:45, so you can be home in time for dinner! We had a church neighbor come to serve at the pantry because he loves what’s going on, and then he and his wife joined us in worship because they were curious to hear more. The food pantry is a great outreach! Community CRC also welcomes volunteers on third Saturdays at 9 am.
Lastly, the Service Deacons are looking at how we can be most effective for the congregation and the partner ministries in the role of the hands and feet of the church. We are considering what the future may look like and how we may operate more like a governing board. This shift may require delegating some of the work to staff or others in the church. We hope to multiply our impact with a small group and empower our church to be the hands and feet of God in the world, starting with our neighborhoods.
Chair, Service Deacon Board