I have spent a few weekends over the past few months with the community of Good Works, Inc. in Athens, Ohio (www.good-works.net). This organization (which began in 1981) primarily cares for widows, children struggling with poverty and people who have no home in rural Ohio. Through a ‘sweat equity’ initiative called The Transformation Station, they also assist people in obtaining permanent transportation and help to provide healthy, easily accessible food. I have felt privileged to participate in the life of this organization, and their approach to ministry has given me quite a bit to think about when it comes to ministry in the local church.
One aspect of ministry in relation to leadership they do so well involves the understanding of their purpose, which is to create space and opportunity for relationships to develop and for God to move. Prior to work groups heading into the community to complete various projects the Good Works staff will emphasize two things:
First, reaching out to the community is not just about completing a project, but connecting with those we serve. On numerous trips to community members’ properties, our Good Works staff leader has said “if you would like to stay and talk with the person we’re serving, feel free.” The effort is not just about the project, but the connection.
Second, they emphasize an attentiveness to seeing God at work in and through the experience. The staff don’t know how God intends to work; they know only that He does and will, in various ways. They don’t try to create a specific circumstance which will force God to work in a certain way, which is then easily identified. Instead, they leave God’s work up to Him. Their job? To create the space and opportunity for God to work through and in both volunteers and those on the receiving end of the services provided by Good Works. Following each day of work with volunteers, one Good Works staff member will lead a time of reflection on the day’s events, asking questions pertaining to the work of God and any meaning found in their interactions. This approach reveals what I think is an important aspect to how we might understand our roles in local church ministry: providing the space and opportunity for God to work.
One way a local church leader might provide the space and opportunity for God to work is by partnering with an organization like Good Works, Inc. who regularly serve the community in ways which might be different than usual. Doing so places our people in the hands of another, recognizing that God may work in and through them in ways we find new and beneficial.
Note: Good Works, Inc. in particular regularly hosts church groups and individuals for work retreats and other internships. They are still accepting applications for Summer of 2018 and if interested please reach out: http://good-works.net/internships/summer-service-internship/