By Natalie Sarrett
Union Church — led by Send Network planter Jason Loewen and his team — was only a month and a half old when the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down in their community.
But instead of getting discouraged, they found a unique, effective approach to ministry. Rather than trying to dip into many avenues of outreach at once, the young church in Flint, Michigan, has committed to focusing on one specific area — their local elementary school. That methodology has served them well during the pandemic and has opened up related ministry opportunities as the pandemic has gone on.
Concentrating their attention on a low-income elementary school, most church members have “adopted” one or more teachers, sending them small gifts and notes of encouragement every few weeks and helping out with their students at recess almost daily. It was through these relationships and others built with local hospital staff that Loewen and his team were prompted to create an Easter basket project to raise morale and serve children who may be living in homeless shelters, attending low-income schools or confined to hospitals. For many of these kids, the pandemic only served to worsen already difficult life circumstances.
By partnering with nearly 20 other churches — many of them affiliated with Send Network — Union Church was able to gather 80 volunteers to create kids’ care packages filled with candy, a gospel tract and an encouraging note with a QR code linking them to neighborhood churches available to them, as well as a video of a gospel presentation.
In total, nearly 3,000 Easter baskets containing 3,500 pounds of candy were assembled.
“Originally, we only planned on doing around 1,000 buckets, but we were able to triple that number because of our partnership with Send Relief and the funds provided,” Loewen said. “We went to Sam’s Club and bought literally every piece of candy in the store — it filled two pickup trucks! We were able to share the reasoning behind this purchase with other customers and the ladies at the checkout counter as well, which was encouraging for them.”
Additionally, members of Gideons International heard about the project and donated 2,000 pocket New Testaments to include in the Easter baskets.
All in all, the church has been able to invest in its community in a way it might not have if COVID-19 hadn’t happened.
Loewen said he believes the pandemic may be “one of the biggest hidden blessings to the local church because it is forcing us to kill a lot of sacred cows.”
“In American Christianity, we can be so consumed with Sunday morning and Wednesday night programs that we forget our original call to go and make disciples,” he said. “If all a church is doing is Sunday service, the community may not even notice if it had to shut down, but the real ministry we’re equipping people for are those moments when a neighbor gets a bad diagnosis — we want to be the first ones they call because we’ve built a relationship and shown real care for them.”
NEXT STEPS >> You and your church can start a COVID-safe project just like this one to minister to your community. Browse Send Relief’s ministry guides for ideas on how to get started.
Published May 19, 2021