Ministry matters: Creative services reach wide crowds
IF YOU GO
What: The Moms on a Mission Clothing Exchange
When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Milton United Methodist Church, 241 Northside Drive, Milton.
Details: Everyone is welcome. The exchange is usually held the second Saturday of every month.
To learn more: Call Jolyn Stankus at (608) 302-7117 or e-mail Fletcherchic02@yahoo.com.
MILTON “Ministry” is one of those uncomfortable church words that puts the fear of volunteering into the even most faithful congregants.
“Ministry” is redolent of sign-up sheets, writing out yet another check, cooking casseroles for 50 or baking 12 dozen cookies.
But it turns out that ministry also can be something more simple, such as exchanging children’s and maternity clothes with other moms, driving someone to a doctor appointment or buying extra paper products while you’re doing your own shopping.
In Janesville and surrounding communities, ordinary people have reached out to others in unusual ways, filling gaps in services and creating connections between people all while living out their values.
Filling the gaps
When the Rev. Bruce Jones of the First Presbyterian Church talks about service, he typically speaks of mission and ministry. Mission is work done for people outside the church, and ministry is for those within its four walls.
In general terms, however, ministry is “the things we do to proclaim the love of Christ for our community and the world.”
At First Presbyterian, ministry includes hosting the men’s traveling homeless shelter, volunteering at the breakfast club at Roosevelt School, collecting food for ECHO or being involved in a variety of other traditional projects.
The church also has a “paper pantry.” The pantry provides items such as paper towels and toilet paper to people in need and occasionally carries items such as laundry soap.
The Roxbury Road Church of Christ has a pantry that carries diapers, household cleaners, feminine hygiene products and other items that might not be offered at a food pantry.
Raejene Schlenke, executive director of Love INC, Janesville, refers to such services as “gap ministries.” They fill a need that isn’t provided by traditional ministries or social service programs.
That’s much of what Love INC does. It listens to the needs of its clients and then reaches out to congregations or community agencies to see who provides such a service. If a service isn’t provided and is in demand, Love INC tries to create a ministry to meet those needs.
Providing rides to doctor appointments, job interviews or other important locations are examples of ministries Love INC developed.
From need to a ministry
Jolyn Stankus of Milton United Methodist Church created a ministry based on a need of her own.
She and another woman from her church talked about how difficult it was to keep growing children clothed.
“We couldn’t afford clothing for our kids,” said Stankus, a mother of four.
The pair founded Moms on a Mission Exchange or “MOME,” which is pronounced “mommy.”
Stankus and others collect clothing, focusing on children’s, teens’ and maternity clothes. Women’s and men’s clothing also is accepted.
Then, from 4 to 7 p.m. the second Saturday of every month, Stankus and her crew of volunteers hold an exchange in the fellowship hall of the Milton United Methodist Church.
People can—but are not required to—bring in clothing to exchange.
“We say, ‘Bring a bag, take a bag or two,’” Stankus said.
Stankus is pleased and surprised by the results.
“The first month we had eight families,” Stankus said. “The last month we did it we had 54 families come through.”
People come up to her in tears, saying, “You just don’t realize how much this means to us.”
The weight of the word “ministry” often makes people feel that if they’re not doing something big, they’re not doing anything at all. Giving a ride to the doctor or chatting with a child over breakfast hardly feels like it counts.
It does count, the Rev. Jones said.
Jones takes his inspiration from Trevor Ferrell. When Ferrell was 11 or 12 years old, he saw a story on television about homeless people in Philadelphia, where he lived.
He convinced his parents to make sandwiches and take spare blankets to the area where the homeless had congregated.
One night became many nights, and Ferrell became an inspiration to his family and his congregation, Jones said.
Now, Trevor’s Place provides shelter for homeless people and services that help them get back on their feet.
“He said, ‘I can’t do everything, but I can do something,’” Jones said.