Ministry on the Margins at Salem COG

Our family started our Pastoral Ministry at the Salem COG in the fall of 2016. God gave us a specific mission for our church - “HOPE for the City & beyond". It was not just a mission statement that we have adopted, but it is the core of who we are and what God wants us to accomplish through us. We want to incorporate our mission into all of our ministries, into every outreach that we do, and into every idea that is presented. With the Holy Spirit as our guide, we developed four core principles that will serve as a road map to fulfill our calling.

“HOPE” through the Gospel

Mark 16:15 says “Go into the world and preach the gospel”. As the Pastor, I want to ensure that our Sunday Morning Experience creates an atmosphere where people can encounter “HOPE”. “HOPE” as they are greeted with a smile when they walk through our doors. “HOPE” through the lessons that are taught in our Sunday School classes, in Children’s Church, and even in our nursery. “HOPE” when we usher in the presence of Lord through praise and worship. “HOPE” through the message that God has placed on my heart for that particular Sunday. “HOPE” when the altar opens for prayer. But this principle is not only to stay within the four walls our church. It is to be taken into the world by us. We are to “go” into the world and preach the gospel not only as individuals but also as a church family. This past Easter Sunday, our church family had the honor to join together with other denominations around the city of Salem for a “Community Sunrise Service”. Our praise and worship team lead worship in that service. It was amazing to hear individuals from different churches sing together while offering “HOPE” to those that listened. “HOPE” can also be offered daily by simply living our lives in front of our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. It is our goal to ensure that the city of Salem and beyond know that they can find the same “HOPE” that we have in the gospel.

“HOPE” through Fellowship 

Acts 2:42 says “and they continued in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship”. Building strong relationships can’t be accomplished by coming together once or twice a week. We are always trying to create opportunities for our church family to get to know one another better. There are regularly scheduled picnics and special dinners to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas as a church family. Our ladies meet once a month at a restaurant, an ice cream parlor or a coffee house just to sit and chat about what is going on in their lives. Our men just recently held a “Meet and Greet”. The men were asked to bring their own meat to throw on the grill and stood around and watched a football game together. On Wednesday nights, a dessert or a meal may be brought in so that everyone can take a few minutes to connect. We hold various other events including Senior Adult luncheons, #Hope4Teens and #Hope4Kidz activities. You will also find groups of our church family at local restaurants on any given Sunday, sitting together at school functions, and hanging out at other events around and in the city of Salem. As we get to know our church family better, it is important for the community to get to know us. We hosted our first “Palm Sunday Celebration” this past spring. The community was invited to join us for this free family event that included an Easter egg hunt with 3,000 eggs, games, bounce houses, and food. There were more than 200 individuals that walked onto our campus that day. We are already making plans for our second “Palm Sunday Celebration” and will “up” the egg hunt to 10,000 eggs plus add more activities. The community was also invited to our Vacation Bible School titled “Entourage” this past August. Every child in attendance was given an invitation for their whole family to join us a “Family Fun Night” on the last night. Unfortunately, our outdoor activities had to be canceled due to rain but over 100 individuals “crammed” into our fellowship hall for a free meal and interacted with one another. In the future, we will continue to look for ways to provide “HOPE” through fellowship not only for our church family but also for our community.

“HOPE” through Discipleship

Matthew 28:19 says, “Go and make disciples of all nations”. As the Pastor, I want to train my church family to become disciples, empowering them to take “HOPE” to others. We continuously try to provide opportunities for everyone, no matter their age, to become a disciple for Christ. The church council voted to pay the fees for every child/teenager in our church to attend the Virginia Church of God Youth Camp. Nine of our children/teenagers were able to go to camp free of church. Our nursery ministry was re-launched this year and offers a monthly theme with weekly lessons, stories and crafts. Our Children’s Church program was restructured and renamed #Hope4Kidz”. A new curriculum was utilized that engages kids on their level every week through bible stories, activities, crafts, and their own praise and worship. Our youth ministry, #Hope4Teens, meets every Wednesday night. Electives are offered during Sunday School for our adults that are specialized to ensure growth in their relationship with God and others. The adult Wednesday night class meets in a “small group sitting” that encourages interaction by contributing to discussions and asking questions to help with personal growth. During VBS, our church kids came together with kids in our community to learn about how to be a better friend and that Jesus is the best friend that we can have. We want to create new and exciting ways this upcoming year to continue to offer “HOPE” through discipleship not only for our church family but for those in our community.

“HOPE” through Serving Others

Matthew 25:40 says “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The greatest opportunity for our church to share “HOPE” is by serving others. Our church holds a monthly food pantry that provides food/personal care items/household items to an average of 60 families per month. During Thanksgiving and Christmas, we prepared 100 “Bags of HOPE” that are given out. Our church started serving Salem City Schools as a way to let the administration, teachers and students know that we love and care for them. Several boxes of school supplies were delivered to one of our local elementary schools at the beginning of the school year. One of our Wednesday night classes was canceled so that we could feed 30 members of the Salem High School JV football team. What an awesome sight to see the JV football players gathered in our fellowship hall, eating, laughing and just hanging out. They even went outside to pitch corn hole and play a game of football. We went into Salem High School and set up a pre-game meal for 150 members of the “Pride of Salem” Marching band. We were told that no one had ever done anything for the band like that before. Numerous individuals asked us “Why would you do this for us?” It was humbling to respond with “we want you to know that you are cared and loved by the Salem COG”. As we move into 2018 and beyond, we will continue to provide “HOPE” through serving others as the opportunities are presented.

This past year has been an exciting time for the Salem COG. It has also been a time of growing pains and challenges as we work toward fulfilling our mission as a church. We are thankful and grateful for the opportunities that God has given us to provide “HOPE to our city & beyond”. Our church family is passionate and willing to give of their time, talents, and treasure to see that our mission is fulfilled. This is just the beginning of what God wants to do for our church and through our church. Please pray that God would give us new, creative, innovative, and exciting ways to offer “HOPE for the City & beyond" in 2018 at the Salem Church of God.

Pastor Todd and Sheri Stiffler
Salem Church of God