Ministry Ideas: Harvest Hands

Harvest Hands is among our oldest and most popular ministries. It even has its own facilities built just for this program. And all it does is give groceries away to those who are in need. Lately, it’s been providing groceries to over 200 families a week.

The program has had great success for several reasons —

* No one receives groceries unless they’ve been certified as being in need that week by one of two social service agencies in town. This way we aren’t giving limited resources away to people who don’t really need them. (Some churches are unwilling to turn undeserving people away. But when you have finite resources, every undeserving person served is one deserving person not served.)

* The program leaders have always insisted on personal contact with those being helped. Those receiving groceries are treated with dignity and concern. In fact, for several years, our college students provided those being served with an annual sit down dinner. The idea is that we are honored to be able to serve.

* No one has ever been required to read a tract or listen to a sermon as a condition to receiving food. We give food out of love, not as a tool to manipulate people.

However, for the last few years we’ve also provided a weekly Bible class, and it’s recently grown to 50 regular attenders and has begun to produce conversions to Jesus. It’s certainly not required, but the love shown through the ministry led many to ask for the class. One of our elders teaches the weekly class.

The interesting thing about Harvest Hands is not just its impact on those being served, but its impact on those serving. There have been times they’ve had to turn down volunteers — they were literally overrun with people wanting to help. You see, Harvest Hands for years was the singular ministry that assured our members that we were headed in a good direction: it’s the ministry that most made people proud to be a part of the University Church.

And, over time, this well-run, compassionate, effective ministry gave the Spirit a tool to use to change us to enjoy serving others. It took years, but this ministry, as much as any other, changed us.


3 Responses

  1. I love to hear stories where the church is actually carrying out the work of Christ.

    We have a very active benevolence ministry in Waynesboro as well. We have a pantry stocked by our members donations that serves the community on a daily basis and we have also partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank (Nashville) where 6 to 8 times a year we are able to have a huge food distribution. The most recent one was two Saturdays ago, we gave out over 18,000 lbs of food to over 160 families totaling 437 people.

    I love the idea of the dinner once a year.

  2. Our church does the same program with a different name. I think we’re partnered with a food bank in Mississippi, but most of our food comes from donations from the congregation since so much is given out every week.

    I think that a lot of the people are too embarrassed and vulnerable to go to the same church they go to for assistance. However our ministers to get many requests to pray with them.

  3. Our congregation recently extended a similar food program with car maintenance. Our community has people who would work as long as they can drive to work. Car inspections stickers are expensive here.

    Members went to car maintenance places that do inspection stickers and asked for donations. Various places gave us coupons for one, two, three car inspections. We gave these to people who needed them. In addition, if a person went to the car maintenance place with a coupon and their car needed extra work, the place would call the ministry leader and talk about the estimated expense. We usually had the funds to cover the expense.

    This helps people help themselves.

    You can extend this idea to just about anything:

    Ask doctors and dentists for coupons for basic treatment.
    Help people do their income tax forms.

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