Kansas City area churches take Jesus' words to heart when He said to care for the "least of these." Through a variety of ministries in their churches and communities, they provide food, school supplies, Christmas gifts and their time to carry out Jesus' words in everyday life.
One way in which churches come together to provide for community needs is through In As Much Ministry, a food pantry that serves the Liberty area. In As Much also assists families with rent, utilities, prescriptions and Christmas presents.
Carol McClure has been a volunteer since 2008. "I enjoy coming in contact with different kinds of people and helping them pick out the items they can take away from the pantry that day."
Churches provide volunteers to keep the ministry operational and also conduct regular food drives to keep the shelves full. It is a completely volunteer-operated ministry.
Another way churches provide for community needs is through partnerships with neighborhood schools. Englewood Baptist Church, Gladstone, is one of the many churches that participate in these partnerships. In 2005, Englewood became a business partner of Golden Oaks, an alternative school for children with severe learning and behavioral issues in the North Kansas City district.
"Being a business partner means we have all kinds of different ways to serve with the school," Englewood Pastor Micah Pritchett said. "They don't have PTA, so we provide incentive programs for kids, during teacher appreciate week we feed them lunch and give them gift cards, we collect school supplies and host a Christmas store where kids can come pick gifts for the immediate family."
Pritchett said the partnership is a two-way street. "The students have collected groceries for our food pantry. This feels like a partnership where there is give and take."
Another way Englewood "gives and takes" is with United Services Agency in Kansas City.
In a letter from United Services, the board expressed its appreciation: "The financial support Englewood Baptist Church has given United Services by providing space, at no cost, has enabled the Agency to continue the provision of services to aid low-income people in need. The Board of United Services Community Action Agency extends our thanks for your partnership and support which has permitted us to continue our focus on helping people help themselves."
Englewood volunteers also participate in Youth Friends, a mentoring organization. Pritchett is one of about five church members who spend time one on one with a student during lunch or other school activities. In 2008, the North Kansas City district named Englewood its business partner of the year.
"This gives us a place to live out our faith in an ongoing, relational way," Pritchett said. "People are excited about serving with the school."
Another way many churches serve with schools to help alleviate hunger is through a school snack pack program. Church volunteers fill bags or back packs with snacks to take home on weekends. In some cases, those snacks might be the only food at home.
Some Clay-Platte Baptist Association churches that participate in the snack pack program include First Baptist in North Kansas City and Gashland, Tower View and Northland Baptist churches, all in Kansas City, and Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Liberty and at KCI. These churches often provide school supplies or host family back-to-school drives for the same schools where they serve with the snack pack program.
First Baptist, North Kansas City, takes feeding its community a step further with a ministry called Feed My Sheep. Once a week, volunteers put on shirts imprinted with "How can I pray for you?" They prayerwalk through northeast Kansas City carrying lunches which they hand out to people they meet. Then, they pray with each person they contact.
Members also provide a small food pantry and dinner for hundreds of people at Thanksgiving.
Volunteers from Gashland Baptist Church, Kansas City, not only help with the snack pack program. They also help maintain the elementary school next door to their church by painting and landscaping.
Pleasant Valley began growing produce through a garden ministry and operates a summer farmers' market offered free to the community. Volunteers plant and care for an onsite garden and provide produce from their personal gardens, too.
Related articles and resources:Matthew 25 lifestyle: You served me... (PDF list of representative agencies carrying out Matthew 25-type ministries)