A one-stop location for ministry

by Sonja J. Keith
Mike Kemp photo

Local churches in the Conway area are working together to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of individuals through a new Ministry Center.

The facility is located on the former campus of Second Baptist Church, which recently moved into a new worship center on Farris Road.

Second Baptist originally had planned to sell the property near Downtown Conway to help finance its new worship center. Instead, members voted to keep the property to do hands-on ministry.

Greg Pillow, who attends New Life Church, leads the efforts. The church property holds special meaning for Greg. He attended Second Baptist, where his father, the Rev. Larry Pillow, served as pastor. “I grew up there and got married there,” he said. “The location has a lot of sentimental value.”

In the fall of 2012, a steering committee — representing six or seven churches — was formed to see if a ministry center was feasible. The group has moved forward with the plan, establishing an 11-member board in the spring of 2013, creating a set of bylaws and applying for 501(c) 3 status. Two employees have been hired to staff the center. Spring Hunter oversees case management, and Scott Taylor is the director.

A handful of churches representing different denominations support the Ministry Center, but more are welcome and needed. “We want dozens of churches to be involved in it,” Greg said.

According to the organization’s website (ministrycenter.org), organizers want the center to provide “a deeper level of ministry to those in need through mentoring, life skills training, employment and education assistance, children’s programs and basically coming alongside the people of Conway to help in all arenas of life. We want to meet needs. We want to create relationships. We want to change lives by sharing Christ and following his command to love people!”

“Our vision is that 24 hours a day, seven days a week the love of Christ will be shared with those in need, one way or another,” said Greg.

The site is already being used to help meet needs:

Soul Food Mission – Operating 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, the ministry provides hot meals, food boxes and clothing, in addition to presenting the Gospel of Christ and sharing God’s word.

Choosing to Excel – The program used the center for a summer program that developed character and competence in youth through safe, structured, community-based mentoring relationships.

AR Dream Center – Those involved use the center for programs, including a Back Yard Bible Club.

Mosaic Church and Rok Church – Both utilize the center for worship services.

According to Greg, organizers do not want to duplicate programs or services already in place. He said the board sees three different relationships with groups utilizing the facility. One would be for ministries that already exist who use the center to leverage what they can do. Another is for churches or ministries that need office space. The third would be for programs created by the Ministry Center board.

Among the activities in the works at the center is case management/mentoring. He said organizers hope to work with individuals who have needs, which may range from finding a good job to parenting/marriage issues. A mentor would help provide guidance, especially if a crisis were to arise. “We want to develop a relationship with them that is long-term,” Greg said. “We think the mentoring is going to be the difference.”

Mentors are currently being recruited by the Ministry Center. Greg said they hope to have up to 10 mentors by the fall. Individuals must have a strong willingness to help and commit for a minimum of a year. The center will provide the training. (For more information on mentoring, call 501.697.2388.)

Another need that the Ministry Center hopes to meet is for emergency shelter. “That’s a need, and if we had the money, we’d do it right now . . . That’s our biggest obstacle — money.” While the Bethlehem House homeless shelter has some emergency beds, Greg points out that they are typically full.

This summer, the Ministry Center is planning an event to help provide school supplies for kids. (Check the website or Facebook page for more information.)

The center is financially supported by seven churches, some making a one-time gift and others giving monthly. Some individuals have given, too. More financial help is needed.

The center has an annual operating budget of $150,000 with utilities and insurance representing the biggest costs. With the age of the building, there are also maintenance expenses. Second Baptist retains ownership of the property, but the Ministry Center is responsible for expenses.

Greg points out there are many opportunities to be involved with the Ministry Center, which he sees as an opportunity to carry out what the Bible instructs Christians to do — serve and help people. “This is an opportunity for everyone to do what God has called us to do.”

When Greg considers the history of the property and what the future may hold, he sees possibilities. “All the lives changed there and the lives that are going to be changed — it’s exciting.”