Seniors in Cape Girardeau are arriving to church prepared to step onto the red carpet. First Baptist Church is using six-door limousines to transport senior members to and from services and other church events.
The church has a large senior population, many of whom sold their vehicles or prefer not to drive, said Joe Dirden, who partnered with fellow church member Floyd Lockhart in starting the limo ministry.
First Baptist already owned a 15-passenger van, but the height of the vehicle and the rows of seats presented problems for senior members.
“One of our transportation team members brought up the idea of six-door limousines,” Dirden said. “These are not really limos, but technically six-door family cars used by funerals homes for transporting family members in funeral processions.”
When funeral homes purchase new vehicles, the limos are often returned to the dealer. “As you might expect, there is not really a big market for these cars the second time around…so the purchase price of these beautiful cars is quite reasonable for what you get.”
“I call this a ‘poor man’s bus ministry,’” said pastor Mike Shupert. “While some other churches in town have very nice shuttle-type buses, some with wheelchair lifts, we have — along with a 15-passenger van — these two cars. I think it’s good stewardship for us where we are now to move in this direction. It’s given us a lot of bang for the buck, as they say.”
The church did consider the reaction of the community when making the decision to use limos. All comments have been positive, Shupert said. “We make sure it’s not seen as an exclusive privilege or perk,” he said. “It’s a ministry open to all who need it.”
Although, as Dirden pointed out, “[our senior members] have grown used to the service and enjoy being pampered, and after all, they deserve it after all these years of being faithful to God and their church.”
In addition to senior ministry, the limos have been used to transport groups to events. “We’ve made it available for youth events and transporting teens to proms and other dances,” Dirden said. “The cars are available for weddings held in our church and even used for its original intended purpose — as a family car in a funeral.”
Although the church uses two main drivers, Missouri law doesn’t require drivers to hold CDL licenses to operate the limos, meaning substitute drivers are easier to find.
“This is a good example of how God opens doors of opportunity by giving a vision of a ministry to a couple of people who were willing to not only share the idea with church leadership, but work hard to make it come to fruition,” Shupert said. “God opened this door to ministry and we’re going to ride it and see where it takes us!”
Jennifer Harris is the news writer for Word&Way.