Several years ago, Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville, NC was surrounded by a huge hedge of bushes. This hedge was a privacy barrier between the church and an apartment complex in the back of the church’s property. Today there are several paths through the hedges giving access from the complex to the church. The paths signify a real ministry link from the congregation to their community.
Thanks to the visionary insights of several congregational leaders, Pastor Greg Rogers, and Layne Rogerson (then a member of the church); this apartment complex was purchased by the church. The original vision was to hold the property for future growth. The vision shifted dramatically through the church’s “It’s Time!” study. A “path” was forming through the hedges.
Today, the vision is to use the apartments as a ministry center. The goal is to provide affordable living space to the “working poor” in Greenville, college students and at risk members of the community. The church is attempting a unique missional ministry. Several “paths” have now been cut through the hedges.
Layne Rogerson was called last year as the Community Center Minister. Her primary assignment is giving leadership to this apartment ministry and care to the occupants. Layne and her family live on site and among the residents. Her daughter, a college student, also is a resident in the apartment ministry. Layne comments, “I don’t believe that I could minister to this community and not live on the property. Being close has afforded me many opportunities for personal and meaningful ministry.”
Today, 112 units are part of the property. The average apartment size is 900 square feet. There is a waiting list for occupancy. There is also an ongoing Bible Study, after school tutoring for about 30 children, several community gardens, and an intentional college student community. A recent It’s Time! Grant from the Fellowship will help with establishing a computer lab in the church for apartment residents. “We will do computer literacy training, job search assistance, and after-school assistance,” says Rogerson of the dream for this work. The “paths” continue to lead back to the church.
The dream for missional ministry is alive and well at Oakmont. This began with one pathway through the hedgerow. These “paths” signify a real ministry link from the church house to a broader community. Perhaps there are opportunities around your church as well. Through what hedge might you need to open up a path to your church?