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Indiana Church Networks With the Neighbors


Michael VandenBerg wants to expand your definition of missionary. “Do what you do best,” said the pastor of Hope Community Christian Reformed Church in Indianapolis, Ind., “but do it in service of the community.”

For over 30 years VandenBerg has been tapping into his congregations’ gifts and using them to serve their neighbors.

VandenBerg grew interested in this type of serving when he was a pastor in Flint, Mich., at the time General Motors left the area and employment dropped significantly. One morning VandenBerg was having coffee with pastors in the neighborhood when they realized the same individual had come to each of them asking for help. “Between our five churches we had given him over three hundred dollars,” he said. Realizing there had to be a better way, VandenBerg called on his experience with Love INC, which helps churches link volunteers and their gifts in order to serve the community.

Today he applies this same practice with his congregation. Hope Community Church, along with several surrounding churches, works from a networking system called a clearinghouse. “It’s the place where both the needs come in and are screened but also the repository of the inventory of resources,” he explained.

For example, Hope doesn’t have a food pantry but does donate food to the United Methodist church in the area. And Hope provides transportation to people who need it.

And VandenBerg encourages those who receive help to pay it forward. When he took a man to get gas, the man offered to send him the money, but VandenBerg turned the offer down. “It’s a gift. Take it, and look for an opportunity to serve your neighborhood.”

“We ask people to do what they can do,” he said. When a young couple told VandenBerg they wanted to be missionaries but thought that, now that they had kids, it would be too complicated, he told them, “You can be a missionary. You’ll be one here.”

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