By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
EASTON, Md.—First Baptist Church of Easton is building community through its “Hope For Easton” outreach. In three years, they’ve established ten Bible studies in apartment complexes, townhouses, senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living homes, and they’re planning to start four more this year. It all started with prayer.
Four years ago church members began prayer walking through the Easton community on Sundays and Wednesdays.
“We have seen God work through that in a lot of ways,” FBC Easton Executive Pastor Drew Jensen said. As neighbors came to sign up for Vacation Bible School or for other children and youth programs, Jensen said someone in the church would recognize an address.
“We realized we prayed over those houses and for those families before we even knew them,” Jensen said.
The church then began an intentional effort to start community Bible studies. Members contacted apartment complexes, assisted living homes and senior centers offering to do block parties in an effort to build relationships and begin Bible studies. God opened the doors wide.
Church members are leading two Bible studies at one apartment complex. About a dozen people attend the adult study, and 20 students attend a youth study.
“We are really pleased,” Patricia Hervey, the church’s outreach committee chairman said.
At one senior center, church members explained that they wanted to have a Bible study, but they also asked, “What can we help you with? What kind of needs do you have?” all in an effort to build relationships with the seniors. The response was immediately positive, and the church now shows movies at the senior center, hosts ice cream Sundays, sends volunteers to visit and play games with residents, and leads a Bible study. They also provide transportation for seniors who need to run errands or make doctor’s appointments.
“God is blessing,” Jensen said. And God didn’t stop surprising them there.
Jensen confessed he was apprehensive approaching one corporately-owned apartment complex, knowing there would probably be bureaucratic processes in place to limit religious activity. But God had gone ahead and prepared the way—effortlessly slicing through that dreaded red tape.
“I introduced myself and…the woman in the office said, ‘I know, you’re with First Baptist Church, and you’re here to make connections.’”
Jensen shared that the church wanted to do a block party with games, music and food. “She said, ‘When do you want to schedule it?’”
Jensen plowed on, explaining that the reason they want to have the block party is to start Bible studies. The woman took Jensen to an empty room he could use and said, “We’ve been waiting for someone to do that.”
Another part of the “Hope for Easton” strategy is hosting events at the church that will draw people from the community. Aside from the variety of Bible studies they host for different age groups, they also volunteer at senior centers and provide food and gas cards for uninsured patients at cancer treatment centers. Late last year, the church had a clinic, offering free dental services for the needy in the community.
Senior Pastor Mike Logsdon said that effort brought about 100 people to the church. “It was a great day,” Logsdon said. “We had three dentists and hygenists. They turned the whole fellowship hall into a dentistry area.”
While patients awaited their turn in the chairs, they watched the movies “Fireproof” and “Facing the Giants.” Church members visited with the patients, shared as the Holy Spirit led them, and they gave out Bibles.
The whole plan is to go out to the community and connect them back to the church.
“It’s very strategic,” Jensen said.
Once they connect with the church, leaders minister to and with the new people, teaching them, praying for them, and training them to go back out into their communities to help others connect. “We’re training, equipping and preparing leaders,” Logsdon said. “Our goal is to go to specific areas, adopt them as our mini-mission field and go in and help people discover who Jesus is from God’s Word.”