December 10, 2012 — “It was a fantastic problem! We had 40 moms with about 80 kids trying to find enough parking places—which our facility didn’t have,” said Pastor Martin Spoelstra of Discovery Church in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Members of the Tea and Tots group at Discovery Church in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Things have come a long way since September 2006, when the church first opened its doors in a residential community filled with young families. About 150 people come for Sunday worship services. Most of them are about 30 years old.
“The kids are coming in droves,” Spoelstra said. One of the reasons for the increase is the church’s new Tea and Tots play group.
Chantel Westerman, Discovery’s youth director, had gone to a nearby midwife center as she looked forward to the birth of her second child. There she began to make connections with other moms who were looking for a social outlet for themselves and their young children. That’s when the idea of Tea and Tots came to her.
Discovery received a Sustaining Congregational Excellence (SCE) Health & Renewal grant to launch the Tea and Tots ministry. The first gathering attracted eight moms with little ones. Just over two months later, 20 to 30 moms were coming each week to join church members and their children, building relationships and community.
“I have personally learned how lonely a world it can be for a lot of people,” Westerman said. “Tea and Tots has been a huge blessing in getting to know people, hearing their stories, offering prayers, and . . . opening our doors and being vulnerable to the community around us.”
Hospitality is also the focus of another SCE Health & Renewal grant project in Lincoln, Neb.
Northern Lighthouse CRC initiated the Bread of Life project, which fosters care and community in the congregation and with inmates from the local prison through Sunday meals.
“We see the value of hospitality as a biblical calling,” says Pastor Jeff Heerspink. “We realized the inmates were not getting lunch if they came to church and understood this as an opportunity for building relationships. People need and are desperate for community, whether they are inmates or not.”
The project means that “people do not need to rush off to eat as they can stay, go deeper in the Word, share experiences, pray together, and build relationships in small groups,” Heerspink explains.
SCE’s Health & Renewal (HR) grants encourage churches to think creatively about how they can nurture the health of their congregation and how they can impact their communities. Grants are awarded for projects a church designs for its particular ministry setting. Since no two settings are identical, each project is unique.
Funded projects have focused on leadership training, youth ministry, outreach through community gardens, small groups, prayer, worship, vision casting, discipleship, and more. If you have an idea and want to explore it, please contact the SCE office toll-free at 877-279-9994, ext. 2805.
Christian Reformed congregations with 150 or fewer active adult members are eligible for SCE programming. The deadlines for HR applications are June 1 and December 1. More information can be found at crcna.org/sce.