50 Ways to Love Your Neighbor
There are many impactful ministries within the Minnesota Conference. The 2015 Annual Conference session included a mission fair that allowed us to learn from each other.
The ministries highlighted at the mission fair are just some of the amazing things Minnesota United Methodist are doing to fulfill God’s vision and our mission to heal a broken world. If you have an outreach ministry to share, send your information to Gail Johnson. We will continue to update this page so that it can be shared and can provide new ideas to churches across the state.
The sharing of food is one the basic ways we connect with one another. Outreach with food runs the spectrum from gathering a few items for informal sharing to running a local food shelf; from making sandwiches to serving full meals. Whatever your ministry, there are a few guidelines that must be followed:
1. Follow safe food handling guidelines. Respect expiration dates, and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you lack the appropriate storage facilities, avoid perishables. All containers and serving and dining ware must be sanitized before they can be reused. Use items designated for food service, not for personal single use.
2. Remind people they are always responsible for what they eat. You cannot guarantee there will be no cross-contamination of allergens.
3. Observe regulations regarding kitchens and people preparing (and selling) food for the public.
Minnesota has an exemption law for churches serving food as part of a religious or fellowship activity and for fundraisers held on the grounds of a religious facility.
Community meals can be special occasions or regular occurrences.
There are significant differences between congregational meals to which anyone can come and meals that the congregation hosts specifically for the community. Be clear on which you are doing.
- Centenary UMC, Mankato: Holy Grounds ministry provides breakfast to those in need six days a week for the colder months of the year. Men staying at the local Salvation Army shelter are among the frequent guests.
- Fridley UMC, Fridley: Offers a Family Table meal once a month for people in need in the community. Along with food, it provides other goods and services to guests who find it difficult to meet some of their needs. They include bread; books for children; hats, mittens, and scarves for winter; backpacks and school supplies; vegetables grown in its Family Table community garden; medical clinics provided by Allina nurses; photos of guests that they can share with family or keep; and free haircuts.
Montrose UMC, Montrose: Provides a meal to the community six different times of the year.
Many churches gather food for other agencies to distribute on an ongoing basis or organize special drives for needed items at particular times of the year.
Just a few of the projects:
- Soup drives around the time of the Super Bowl
- Drives for specific high-need items: peanut butter and jelly, toiletries, paper goods, school snacks, breakfast cereal, etc.
- Collecting food items as admission to a special event
- Fill the pew: Request items, and pile them high on a particular pew as they come in
- Fill the van/bus: Crossroads Church has a bus and distributes flyers in a neighborhood with a time and date when the bus will pick up items for a local food shelf. On collection day, church volunteers take the bus down the street and knock on doors to gather the items collected. (The flyer includes the name of the church, the website, and an invitation to come to worship, and volunteers chat with people as they collect the food.)
Delivering meals to people who are challenged to cook for themselves helps them to live independently. Here are a few ways churches are doing that. Contact the local branch of these programs in order to get plugged in.
- Loaves and Fishes: Serving hot meals in an atmosphere of hospitality. (Contact Brooklyn UMC or Brunswick UMC to learn about how they do this.)
- Meals on Wheels (et al): Delivering fresh, nutritious meals from a centralized community location to seniors and others in need.
- Open Arms: Cooking and delivering fresh meals to those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, MS, or ALS in the greater Twin Cities area.
- Holiday food/meal distribution: Preparation, serving, or delivery of special meals during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and at other times of the year.
- Minnehaha UMC, Minneapolis: Its MinneHarvest welcomes about 200 people to select groceries each month.
- Simpson UMC, Minneapolis: Holds four monthly produce fairs in the summer and shares bags of fresh produce with community members.
- Spirit River Community UMC, Isanti: Through its Matthew 25 food distribution, it receives, sorts, and distributes fresh groceries to up to 500 people monthly at the local middle school.
Food Pantries and Shelves
Clothing and Household Goods Ministries
Many churches gather clothing to be distributed by other agencies. Others gather clothing for local schools. Some have their own distribution systems. Collections might occur throughout the year, or there might be special drives during particular times of the year. Some items that churches collect:
- Socks and underwear
- Hats and gloves
- Jackets and coats
- Pants and shirts (including those for schools to keep on hand for accidents or for students who come to school in clothing that's not appropriate for the weather)
- Career wear for people in transition
- Buffalo UMC, Buffalo: Its Blankets for Beds ministry provides new or high-quality used blankets/bedding to the community. Most are distributed through the local food shelf.
- Multiple churches, East St. Paul: Through God’s Closet clothing and caring ministry, shoppers can come once a month and fill two bags of clothes and household items for no cost.
- Grand Rapids UMC, Grand Rapids: Its Open Door Coat Rack provides coats and other winter gear for residents in need; the church serves most of Itasca County through this ministry, which served 1,211 individuals in 2014.
- North UMC, Minneapolis: Its Clothing Closet, which opens several times each month, provides free clothing for families in need and is set up in the same manner as a store.
- Pipestone UMC, Pipestone: Its Shepherd’s Robe ministry offers free clothes, shoes, hygiene products, small household items, and occasionally food, to residents in need.
Housing can include serving, advocating, providing occasional on-site refuge, and/or starting a shelter.
- Brooklyn UMC, Brooklyn Center: Avenues for Homeless Youth is a 12-bed shelter for homeless youth in the northern suburbs. Mosaic, a ministry of Brooklyn UMC was instrumental in making it happen.
- Cambridge UMC, Cambridge: The church hosts homeless families at the church at least two times per year through the New Pathways program in Cambridge.
- Lake Harriet UMC, Minneapolis: Camp MSP is a multi-day service camp for fifth- through seventh-graders. Participants help residents in the local area and return home each evening.
- Minnehaha UMC, Minneapolis: Its youth group set out to perform 15,000 acts of kindness in 2014. They achieved their goal in early December, making an impact on others and themselves.
- Mounds Park UMC, St. Paul: It puts on Urban Cross, a week-long experience for youth and adults who gather in St. Paul’s East side to serve Jesus by serving others. Participants complete various projects in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood during the day and worship and have fellowship in the evenings at the church.
- STORM Camp: This is a week-long experience for youth and adults who gather in Faribault and Marshall to serve Jesus by serving others. "STORM" stands for Service to Others in Relational Ministries. Participants complete various projects in the local community during the day and worship and have fellowship in the evenings at a local church.
- Wyoming UMC, Wyoming: The church has Brush With Kindness and Care Crew ministries that work hand-in-hand. Brush with Kindness is a branch program of Habitat for Humanity that offers help with home-repair projects. Care Crew is a ministry of the church that offers help with smaller projects and other assistance to seniors.
- Wyoming UMC, Wyoming: Through its "March Mission Blizzard," it uses the month of March to focus on missions in worship, which provides the opportunity to talk and take action in a more in-depth manner.
- Aldersgate UMC, St Louis Park: The church works with an organization called Perspectives, which supports adults and children recovering from abusive situations and helps them heal and become independent.
- Waterville and Blooming Grove UMCs: These churches have a dual outreach ministry called Gathering House that serves people in Steele and Rice County jails. They host a bi-weekly Bible study at Rice County jail and a weekly worship and art class at Steele County jail, and they offer one-on-one mentoring and chaplaincy.
- Lake Harriet UMC, Minneapolis: The church is actively engaged in Eco-Ministry and has been adopting practices that include rain gardens, composting, and photovoltaic solar panels.
- Racine UMC, Racine: The church has a small membership that is very dedicated to serving the community through a food shelf, library, and service events; it is also now working to build a community bread oven.
- Hastings UMC, Hastings: Over the past two summers, Hastings UMC created and maintained a community garden. It donated thousands of pounds of produce from the garden to Hastings Family Service—which provides emergency and support services to those who lack food, clothing, shelter, and other basic necessities.
- Living Spirit UMC, Minneapolis: The church plants and harvests a vegetable garden that provides food for a large community meal in the fall.
- Northeast UMC, Minneapolis: The church plants and harvests a vegetable garden in the church yard that provides food for free community meals and the local food shelf.
Carnivals, ice cream socials, parades, fireworks, and movies are all fun events, but it is essential to connect back to the reason for the outreach; be sure to take that next step in sharing your mission and God’s love through all outreach events.
NOTE: Community movie nights are a popular outreach. It is critical that you have a video license anytime you are showing a movie in church; this includes full movies or clips, in worship or Sunday School or study groups, even if you are not charging admission. Movies sold in retail stores are for personal and home use only. Church gatherings are not considered home or personal use. An annual license through CLVI is about $240 and will cover all major studios, including Disney. Other vendors offer this service as well. Make sure that the movie you want to show is covered by the license you purchase.
- Anoka UMC, Anoka: United for the Community is a back-to-school event that combines a community fair atmosphere (with food, music, bounce houses, waterslide, and games) with resources for families in need: free school supplies, a clothes closet with free clothing for children, free haircuts, and access to a variety of community partners, including the public library, health and dental care, and other resources.
- Brooklyn UMC, Brooklyn Park: The church brings its community together to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. by hosting a MLK holiday breakfast.
- Brunswick UMC, Crystal: The church hosts free outdoor movie nights for its community.
- Grace UMC, St. Cloud: On the day of its Big Give, the church fellowship hall turns into a mecca of used items ranging from clothing to furniture and much more. Everything is given away to families in need.
- Wyoming UMC, Wyoming: During the community's annual Stagecoach Days Booya and Pie Extravaganza, the church provides hospitality and serves free pie and coffee to neighbors.
- Forest Hills UMC, Forest Park: Through the church's car care clinic, vehicles are brought to the church parking lot on Saturday morning once a month for maintenance and light repair.
- Park Avenue UMC, Minneapols: The church hosts a legal clinic through which attorneys from Peace and Hope International and the Volunteer Lawyers Network come to the church building each Thursday afternoon to give free legal advice.
- Spirit River Community UMC, Isanti: Once or twice a year, attorneys from the area come to the church to provide free legal advice to residents.
Focus On Children
- Chatfield UMC, Chatfield - has provided a community wide VBS for a number of years. This year the ELCA in town will be joining us in a joint effort to provide an ecumenical program.
- Northeast Minneapolis - Three UMC churches (Faith/ St. Anthony, Northeast, and Community) collaborated to host an Eco-Kids Camp for children in 3rd-5th grade at Northeast UMC
- Osseo UMC, Osseo: The church provides traveling VBS. College students from the church are trained and then take their Vacation Bible School “on the road” to several other communities throughout Minnesota.
- Park Avenue UMC, Minneapolis - CDF Freedom Schools program providing intense summer educational enrichment.
This includes tutoring, classroom involvement, supply donations, and teacher appreciation gifts.
- Chatfield UMC, Chatfield: Through its weekend food program, it provides weekend meals to families that request them.
- Federated UMC, Morris: Nearly each month during the school year, a staff event means that schools in the small community begin late in the morning. Many students stay home and sleep in, but not everyone has that option. Now students in grades seven through 12 can drop in at the cafe between 8 and 10 a.m.; it's located in the church building directly across the street from the schools.
- La Cresent UMC, La Cresent: In the summer, through the church's Lunch Wagon program, children from the community are invited once a week to eat lunch in one of several public locations.
- Lake City UMC, Lake City: Every Friday, a team of volunteers meets at the church to pack brown paper bags full of kid-friendly foods that will feed 64 children and their families; these bags are loaded into volunteers' cars and dropped off at the homes of the children.
- Oakwood UMC, New Ulm: The church has adopted Jefferson Elementary School in order to share God's love with the neediest kids in the community. It provides emergency school supplies, kids' clothing, and staff appreciation gifts throughout the year. It also partners with the local Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE) program to help put on an annual baby shower for moms in the community who have given birth within the past year.
- Hennepin Avenue UMC, Minneapolis: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, the Dignity Center welcomes all people experiencing poverty and homelessness and supports them in overcoming personal and systemic obstacles to achieving stability.
- Normandale Hylands UMC, Bloomington: The church began an older adult caring ministry in 2008. From that ministry, nonprofit organization ApparentPlan was born. ApparentPlan’s mission is to provide information and resources enabling communities of faith to provide outreach and supportive ministry programs for older adults.
- Chatfield UMC, Chatfield:Through its Gathering Place ministry, the church provides ongoing support and education to the adult seniors in its community.
- Oakwood UMC, New Ulm: The church has made arrangements with a local funeral home so that anyone who's working with that funeral home and would like a church service for their loved one can receive one through the church, which not only does the service but prepares a meal and counsels family members.
- Silver Lake UMC, Oakdale: The church places prayer shawls with prayer cards at funeral homes to be given to families that have no church home.
- Wyoming UMC, Wyoming: Its 'Stitch ‘n Rip Quilters’ make quilts to be distributed to anyone in church who is ill (similar to a prayer shawl ministry).
- Zion UMC, Sargeant and Brownsdale UMC, Brownsdale: The church's United Methodist Women have an extensive outreach to the members of its community.
Who is our neighbor? Our neighbors aren't only those in our communities, our state, or even our nation. There are a number of impactful programs reaching beyond our borders.
- Cory Wawanaca Orphanage, Bolivia: The children’s home is a project recognized by the General Board of Global Ministries and provides a loving home for orphaned and abandoned children.
- Grace Children's Hospital, Haiti: It cares for children suffering from TB, HIV, and other life-threatening diseases. It also works in the Dominican Republic, helping children with disabilities.
- Helping Haiti Work: It provides small, renewable loans of $200 to the women of Limbe and Ranquite, Haiti.
- Imara International: This Minnesota Conference Advance Special serves the global community through a licensed rescue home for teenage mothers and their children in Nanyuki, Kenya.
- Jericho Project: Akeley UMC gathers thousands of used eyeglasses throughout the year to be distributed in Browns Town, Jamaica each February.
- Liberian Schools: A partnership helped to build a 12-room technical school in Gipo (close to Ganta).
- Strong Missions: Strong Missions serves the people within Costa Rica through community development programs, including several feeding sites, education, and community-building activities, including sports and performing arts for children and adolescents, as well as financial support for pastors serving congregations with limited or no resources.