Ashland church tills garden as community ministry

Originally published in Western Recorder – http://www.westernrecorder.org/1137.article

Ashland—Central Baptist Church’s new ministry center, Hope Central, has begun ministering to those in need in its surrounding community in a unique way.

The church looked at the neighborhood and wanted to do something more, something different than they have done in the past. They saw that by-and-large their community had needs, and they wanted to do more than meet “immediate needs,” said children’s minister and pastor’s wife Renee Parsons.

“Everybody is meeting the immediate needs, but they are not really ‘long-terming’ it. It has created a society of dependency,” Parsons commented. “We said, ‘Okay, how do we stop doing that and start doing something much more productive?'”

Drawing from the clich�, “Stop giving them fish; start giving them poles,” the church stopped giving out money, clothes and, largely, food. Instead, they pointed people to other ministries and resources throughout the area, and they began focusing on a new approach, Hope Central, located in a house next door to the church, Parsons shared.

Two of the main ministries the center will offer will be tutoring and an urban garden.

In cooperation with the public school system in Ashland, Hope Central will use volunteers to offer tutoring services and homework help. Teachers will choose children who need help after the first nine weeks. From 4-5 p.m. four days a week, up to 20 children will meet with tutors in reading and math. From 5-6 p.m., more tutors will be available for homework help.

The urban garden was birthed out of this ministry and is a project for youth at Central. They will apply scriptural truths to gardening, as well as use it for outreach, John Clark, Central’s youth pastor, said.

In addition to growing a garden on the church grounds, they are starting a “pallet ministry,” Clark said. Each pallet will contain a small garden.

Instead of giving people boxes of food, they will give them a pallet garden. The pallets will open doors for evangelism as volunteers develop relationships with the community.

“We’re using our outreach to not just share the gospel, but also help these people find what they need and get them the assistance they need to help better their lives and show them the love of Christ. It’s just a blessing all round,” Clark said.

The ministry center will be a hub for many things, including a place for the community to connect with other ministries that they may not have access to, otherwise. Central’s VBS ministry will operate out of the center, as well as other services offering job placement or pregnancy crisis help.

The center, which has been in the works for a year and a half, will be fully functioning by October.

“This will be an awesome way to get these people some help, some love, and just give them Jesus,” Clark added.

“The kids we are dealing with now are a generation of an already lost generation,” he added. “If we don’t make some drastic steps to go towards these children and make a difference in their lives, then what are we here for?” (WR)

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