As local churches go, Grace Communion Church is not a large one.
With about 45 members and regular worship attendance of about 30, it’s more the size of a Sunday School class. But that hasn’t stopped the congregation from taking on a variety of community endeavors, trying to make an impact as best it can for its size.
The church, at 321 S. Derby, has been here for about a year, and one of the projects lead pastor Kirk Hayden is most excited about is a new mentoring program it has undertaken with nearby Swaney Elementary School.
Essentially, it’s simply spending time with youth. It came about through interaction with the Youth Horizons program and counselors at the school.
Hayden is part of the four-member team – two women and two men – who have taken children there under their wing to be a friend. Each works with youth of their own gender.
It’s especially important for the boys, he said, to have a positive role model.
They meet in an open setting, such as the library, and just hang out for a while during the lunch period. It could be as simple as playing a game of checkers - talking about issues in their life.
“He’s starting to open up,” Hayden said of the boy he works with.
What Hayden also likes is the community connection the church has.
The school is only two blocks from the church – right in the neighborhood.
“That is what we want to be – we want to be part of the community,” he said.
It’s all about planting positive seeds today for possible change tomorrow.
“All these kids need positive role models,” he said. “You do make a difference when you spend time with kids. It may not be that day; it could be five years later.”
He said it would be “awesome” to realize he made a difference in a child’s life and hear about it later.
While the mentor will help out with school work if needed, the undertaking is not a formal tutoring session. Hayden terms it more a relationship-building one, a process that takes time. There’s also a matter of building trust.
“You continually show up,” he said. “You don’t miss your time – then the kid knows you think he’s important. That’s how trust begins.”
It means paying full attention and not being distracted by a phone, device or other tasks, he said.
“You have to be invested,” he said. “That person is the most important reason you’re there.”
The small church also is “adopting” families during Christmas time to help them out. Further afield, members have already packed and sent shoeboxes of useful items to families in need in north Mexico.
Hayden said making a positive impact on the lives of others is one of the main missions of the church and it does something “outside of the walls” at least once
“People here want to help and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
It’s not about any financial conquests – but the intangible gains are where the blessing is.
“It’s all very rewarding,” he said.