BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (KT) — Rich Pond Baptist Church, like so many in Kentucky, is struggling to figure out how to serve well when being in proximity to other people could be unsafe.
“How do you maintain social distance and move toward people to help them?” asked senior pastor Steve Hussung. “That's the challenge right now.”
One afternoon last week, Hussung and his wife Lisa spontaneously set out to check on some of the senior adult members of the church. They pulled into driveways, called people living inside from a cell phone, and invited them to step out on their porches for some conversation — from a safe distance, of course.
“It was good for us to see them and for them to see us,” Hussung said. “Human contact is good, even if it’s from a distance.”
The Bowling Green pastor is also looking to find opportunities to make connections in his neighborhood as families trying to remain safe at home take more walks together.
Brent Fields, pastor of Missions and Outreach, said one of the first ways the church sought to serve the community was through a food drive. It seemed like every night cable news stations showed images of panicked shoppers and empty grocery shelves. When a local station ran a segment on what the Rich Pond Baptist Church was trying to do, the phones started ringing.
“What I learned this week after we became part of the story is that the people who called the church looking for help were in a hardship,” Fields said. “They either have a condition where they can't get out of the house, or they don't want to get out the house and they need prescriptions filled or they need groceries and they need somebody to take it to them.”
Fields said through the food drive ministry he was able to encourage six people who have never attended Rich Pond Baptist to watch Sunday’s sermon online.
“It's kind of an awkward situation because we're trying to drop off items at the door and leave. We did leave some gospel tracks,” Fields said. “Hopefully, we can build a relationship with people.”
Church member Linda Huff dropped off several bags of food at the church Sunday afternoon and said she was grateful to help people in need, especially if it means introducing them to Jesus.
“I'm in a different situation. I'm retired. So, my money keeps coming. But some people here, money doesn't keep coming. They have families to feed and there's no way they can do it by themselves,” Huff said.
Food collected by Rich Pond Baptist will help people in the church’s mission field with groceries, including a nearby elementary school, and possibly two refugee ministries in Bowling Green.
Huff was the first of a steady stream pulling into the parking lot and letting church staff unload their contributions. Sometimes drivers lingered to visit with people they’ve only seen on TV or computer screens since the church closed to large gatherings.
“I’m missing my church,” Huff said. “I mean, we do church online, but you miss seeing the people you’ve been going to church with all this time.”
She said there’s something different about sitting in the same space, singing and worshiping together and hearing the gospel preached.
“I think [God] comes and meets us there. You can feel His presence,” Huff said.
When parents of young children came through the food drop-off station, Children’s Ministries Director Susan May would place an Easter devotional in the cargo area. The two-week family devotion booklet called, “The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross,” includes a 15-door calendar — like an advent calendar — that starts the week before Palm Sunday.
“It's been a challenge trying to figure out how to continue to serve our family well,” said May. “I think one of the biggest blessings is we can encourage a lot of family discipleship. We know our families are busy and they struggle even though they desire to do it. My prayer is they'll develop some good rhythms that continue long after this is over.”
Other ideas the church is trying out included putting up signs in the community with a phone number people could call if they need help. They also canvased surrounding neighborhoods with a needs survey. Fields and Hussung went to about 100 homes and taped postcards on front doors offering to help people who are self-isolating.
Fields said as of Sunday no one had taken the church up on the offer, but they will keep trying to discover ways to reach out to people with the love of Christ.
“We’re learning as we go,” Fields said. Undoubtedly like so many other Kentucky churches.