How can you make inroads into the community? That question has driven Steve Murray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Nashua, NH, for the past few years. New Hampshire has “taken over” the top spot as the least attended region of the U.S. and, with its heavily Catholic population, people are not eager to engage in spiritual conversations. Steve’s goal has been to target the area around the church and find needs that the church could meet and have the proximity to the church make it easy for people to attend.
In the fall, Steve had prayed and thought about opening a food pantry. The church has been connected with the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission, and office administrator, Cathy Lewis has been involved with them in getting food from the NH Food Bank. She knew the ins and outs of getting food and was a great resource for moving ahead with the idea. There is always the need for food, especially around the church, and it was a tangible way to meet needs in a “non-religious” way. The goal was also to get people into the church to break down hesitations people might have of actually coming into the church itself.
Steve mentioned the idea of starting a food pantry on a Sunday morning in church, and had 30 people express interest and come to an initial meeting to hear more and help make it happen. Steve was shocked at the number (that’s over 10% of the church Sunday attendance). It was evident that God was working in hearts as well with many people interested in one way or another.
More meetings produced a leadership team of three women with Steve. Several months of planning, getting approved by the Food Bank as a user, networking with several local grocery stores, and they launched. Church members passed out 300-400 door knob hangers in the area around the church and assumed that word-of-mouth would spread to others.
In the first three weeks, the food pantry has served 66 families (159 individuals), with the equivalent of serving 2500 meals. Even better has been the fact that two people from the area have come to church as a result of the connection. The goal, says Steve, is not to just feed people physically, but also build relationships with people to see God work to feed people spiritually.
It is not that difficult to do, and the initial response has been gratifying and promising. The food pantry runs out of the church’s main lobby. Steve is praying about ministries that can spring from this beginning, like starting an ESL class or tutoring kids from the families. He recommends a food pantry as one way to build bridges into the community and allow God to open doors into the hearts of hungry people.