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Cherryville church finds ways to connect
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
April 07, 2010

Cherryville church finds ways to connect

Cherryville church finds ways to connect
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
April 07, 2010

Many churches utilize Upward

Basketball as a community outreach tool. In fact Upward Sports, with

headquarters in Spartanburg, S.C., reports 230 Upward basketball leagues in

North Carolina this season.

Churches find Upward one way

to fill their gyms with kids from the community, which is one justification for

most churches who built them in the first place. Upward leagues can bring a

flood of people through your facility for eight weeks who can afford the $65 or

so it costs per participant.

But First Baptist Church

Cherryville turns the tables on that cost and assumes all the expenses itself.

For the 350 boys and girls involved in their fourth season of Upward Basketball

this year, the Cherryville congregation foots the bill for more than $20,000.

They involved close to 100

volunteers and saw about 2,000 people through their facility every Saturday.

Pastor Vince Hefner says many young people made professions of faith through

the distinctly Christian sports activity.

“It’s a recruiting tool for

Jesus, not a recruiting tool for our church,” Hefner said. In season and out,

Hefner looks for ways to keep his congregation actively involved with ministry,

community and personal growth.

“A local church ought to be

involved in ministry 12 months of the year,” said Hefner, pastor for eight

years in Cherryville. Besides, he said, when people are busy in ministry and

personal growth, they don’t complain about the carpet, heat or sermons!

The church launched a

personal growth event this winter called 27·30, a challenge to read the 27

books of the New Testament in 30 days. Hefner provided a reading schedule and

has given away 1,300 New Testaments with schedules.

When church members wore

their 27·30 T-shirts and told friends on Facebook what they were doing,

requests for the schedule came from all over.

The shirts are an evangelism

tool, said Hefner, a member of the Biblical Recorder board of directors. People

naturally ask about their meaning and the wearer can say, “Let me tell you how

the Lord spoke to my heart in 30 days of reading His word.”

Church members also

demonstrate their giftedness through a prayer quilt ministry in which

participants gather twice a week to construct quilts as gifts of love given to

terminally ill patients. Hefner secured the loan of several acres of land from

a church member on which other church members are going to plant a major garden

this spring. When the vegetables are harvested, they will be given at no cost

to those in need.

On Sunday mornings some men

meet at a local outdoor recreation store the owner lets them use for Bible

study with men who avoid a church building like they avoid rickety deer stands.

They cook breakfast and study the Bible in an atmosphere where they feel at

home.

“We’ve been blessed here not

to just have ideas, but to have planning and implementation as well,” said

Hefner, who wishes he could help pastors see the need for planning and not just

for having ideas. “Lots of people have ideas. I have an idea for world

peace, but no plan to implement it.”

Hefner sees his church, with

attendance of about 500, as “counter punchers.” They have a steady stream of

smaller projects and activities.

Wednesday nights the church

has Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action mission groups, and utilizes an Awana

program on Sunday nights.

A space in the old fellowship

hall has been remodeled into a coffee house that is very popular with the high

school crowd. When unemployment started hitting local families a couple years

ago, First Baptist held a job fair, matching employers with prospects.

Cherryville Area Ministries

(CAM) is a service oriented ministry that helps struggling families. While a

silent auction has raised money for CAM before, Hefner thought he could cajole

more funds out of supporters with a live auction this year and the event at

First Baptist raised $10,000.

Hefner is all about

outreach.

“Anything I can do — that’s legal — I’m going to do to find a way to

tell people about Jesus,” he said.