Support our siblings affected by disaster, hunger and oppression through One Great Hour of Sharing.

How much outreach can a small church do?

As it turns out, plenty

by Rev. Dr. David Imhoff | Special to Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Ft. Caroline Presbyterian Church, which I serve as interim pastor, is 60 years old and has long passed its “glory days.” It’s in the Arlington area in Jacksonville, Florida, a neighborhood in the midst of transition. When I arrived nearly four years ago as the part-time ecumenical pastor, we were worshiping alongside about 20 people. We have only two couples in their 50s; most worshipers are 70-98 years of age.

When I arrived we had two outreach ministries. One provided volunteer drivers for Meals on Wheels; the other is support for a neighborhood ecumenical food bank. About a year ago I was approached by a “meal serving food stocks” ministry for the community that I had worked with in a previous congregation I had served. It seems their church was closing up and they were asked to leave. After discussing the idea with the session, this is what happened next and is still going on:

Every second and fourth Saturday morning we serve a hot breakfast to anyone who walks in — typically about 250 people. After they’re done eating, guests and others who don’t want to eat right away take a number and, when their number is called, they take home food boxes full of meat, canned goods, bread, and fruit. Each family receives two very large boxes of food — too heavy for most to carry to their cars.

We have 35 volunteers and both of our parking lots are full. We bring in food trucks and trailers of food to hand out. Everything is free. Our breakfast crew arrives at 5 a.m. They’re often greeted by about 35 folks waiting outside. We also provide a clothing bank with a variety of sizes.

Families come to us with small children. Others are grandparents, homeless or the working poor. By 10 a.m. we close up, having fed more than 600 people. We do this twice a month. Our congregation provides the space, utilities, and about five of the active volunteers.

Since then we have grown in membership and worship, averaging now 35 folks every week nowadays. We have two weekly Bible studies that are each attended by about 12 people. We still do Meals on Wheels.

Included in our 15 new members are people from Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Belize. Many of the new members volunteer in our food ministry.

We also feed 125 police officers one Saturday every three months as they arrive for their roll call. The officers eat whatever food is appropriate for the time they check in, which is from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. We do this as a community service and to honor their service to the community.

I have always believed that churches should be about the business of mission. When they do they serve people and God’s plan, and usually those churches grow. I have been blessed to have served large churches in four states, but this little congregation is a real joy.

The Rev. Dr. David E. Imhoff is a pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America now serving a part-time interim at Ft. Caroline Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Fla.


Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?