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Elmore’s Mount Hebron takes church ‘Off Campus’ to local schoolcomment (0)

March 31, 2011

By Anna Swindle

Mount Hebron Baptist Church’s March 6 worship service was, in many ways, a typical Sunday service. It included the Elmore church’s praise team, a performance by the children’s choir and a sermon.

But this was not just any Sunday service — March 6 was a special service called Off Campus Church, held at Holtville High School and tied into a broader missions outreach.

“Our church is very missions-minded, but this is the first time we’ve ever done something of this magnitude in our community,” Church Administrator Jane Barrett said.

One benefit of the local focus was the opportunity it created for more church members to do missions than ever before, Senior Pastor Steve King said.

“Some people in our congregation aren’t able to participate in foreign missions, and so Off Campus Church allowed us to help members see that the mission field is right here in our own neighborhood,” King said.

Members of the Elmore Baptist Association church knew they wanted to hold a worship service for the community, and the high school was an ideal setting.

“We’re a small town and don’t have a civic center or anything, so the high school is the heart of the community,” church member Carol Browder said. “We wanted to get outside the church walls to share the gospel.”

The congregation first turned to prayer and then decided to get its foot in the school door by donating school supplies and other small goodies for each teacher. It reached out to school staff members to see what work could be done to improve the property, and soon church members were scraping and cleaning windows, painting classrooms and bathrooms, picking up trash and raking leaves.

“We’ve had lots of teachers turn in thank-you cards since the event,” said Principal Jimmy Hull, who is a member of Mount Hebron. “It was wonderful to see everything come together, especially since I have a strong commitment to both the school and the church.”

In preparation for the worship service, church members participated in two prayer walks around the school’s campus: one the day before the event and another the day of the event. Following the service, members served a hamburger and hot dog lunch to everyone in attendance — and then some.

“This is a very small, rural community, so we wanted to do something to reach out to the people who work on Sundays,” Barrett said. “So we took plates of hamburgers and hot dogs and passed them out for lunch to four or five businesses near the school. We also took meals and shared them with a group home in that area.”

Though attendance was lower than the church had hoped — an estimated 300 people, including church members — Browder said she and her fellow members still believe the service was a worthwhile venture.

“Even if they didn’t come that day, I feel like the projects that were done would touch a lot of lives anyway,” Browder said. “Lots of teachers know what was done, and they’ll share that with others.”

And for those who didn’t attend Off Campus Church, they’ll get a second chance this fall. King said the church is already planning to host the event again at another local high school. Since it will be football season, it wants to try to get the school’s coaches and football players involved.

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