At Country Club Church of Christ, they reach out to those in need with the love their faith nurtures.
“Our goal in everything that we do,” said Josh Watkins, pastor, “is to show people that a family truly takes care of one another.”
One of their simpler outreach programs connects with locals as well as tourists.
“From June 29 through July 2 we’ll have two booths at the UFO festival,” Watkins said. “One will have bibles, tracts and copies of the Constitution. The other booth will be a dedicated cooling booth. We’ll have misters and bottled water. It’s free, just come, take a load off. We did it last year but it was kind of small. People would come stand there for a minute and move on. This year we’re hoping people will relax a bit more and enjoy a cool moment in a hot day.”
They just finished vacation bible school.
“We had vacation bible school in the first full week of June,” he said. “Monday through Friday we had around 220 kids. We invite kids from anywhere and everywhere, we send a lunch home with the kids. We had a blast with that.”
The church has been offering a free meal, with donations accepted to cover costs, to busy people on Wednesday nights during the school year, and this year it’s going to be a bit larger in scope.
“We’re going to start the Wednesday night meals again on Aug. 9,” Watkins said. “They’ve got so much going on there. They’re going to do a brunch for the cooks. We’re going to set aside all money donated above the cost of food for various ministries.
“Last year, one of our ministries was a coat and pants drive for Mesa Middle School. We raised $4,600. If kids were in need of pants or a coat at the season change then the funding we provided would buy pants or a coat for those students. We had a phenomenal response for that.”
They plan on a variety of outreach ministries over the school year.
“We’re going to partner ministries like that with our Wednesday night meals,” he said. “It runs around $200 to $250 to buy the food for each meal. So we figure people will be willing to donate more to help these ministries.
“We’re trying to line up about nine months of ministries. The goal will be about a ministry a month, but it might go to two months a ministry if they could use the funding. But we’re looking for ministries that are more the outreach type. We would like to change direction every two months, to ask how can we help out directly, and find new ways to help.”
They would like to work with other churches and organizations to better reach those in need.
“We would love to work with a larger cooperative of churches and groups,” Watkins said, “that reach out to help the community.”
While most of their outreach stays in Chaves County and New Mexico, some goes to others whose needs cannot be met where they are.
“About 20 to 25 percent of our church’s outreach budget goes to foreign missions,” he said. “Last year at Christmas we did a big fundraiser for an orphanage in Brazil. We chose to go with the orphanage in Brazil because it’s a mission that we support, and the missionary we work with tells us of the children’s needs.
“There’s an Albuquerque Christian Children’s home that we help as well as a Portales Christian Children’s home.”
The greater percentage of their local focus is on or through Mesa Middle School.
“We focus quite a lot on Mesa Middle School because we have members who teach there and see what’s going on,” Watkins said. “We would hope there are other organizations reaching out to the other schools in the area, addressing the needs they see.”
As fall approaches, they prepare for the customary holiday responses.
“We have the fall festival,” he said. “Years ago they did it in conjunction with other churches. It was more like a Trunk or Treat. Churches would open their buildings and have something on Halloween night.
“We realized that so many churches were doing it, we were just another place. So our decision was to change it. We moved it earlier in October. We’ve done it at Graves Farm for the last two years. We’re hoping to get on their calendar again this year. We rent the whole place, so they have the corn mazes and it’s very family friendly. We try to make this family focused and just come-one-come-all.”
During the Thanksgiving season thoughts turn to feeding the needy.
“November is the time for another one of our ministries,” Watkins said. “Yet again, we partner with Mesa Middle School and others. We get lists and we support about 25 families that may not be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner. We have volunteers who pre-cook Thanksgiving meals and freeze them to make them easy to microwave.”
In the past they’ve supported the Angel Tree.
“In the past we’ve done the Angel Tree as well,” he said. When we supported the Angel Tree ministries the church would support 25 families. Members would bring gifts up here wrapped.”
Watkins is excited to encourage new ministries in the church. The more people who choose this kind of work, the better the church’s work, in his eyes.
“My objective is to work myself out of a job,” he said. “If this church has to have me to survive, I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. My job as a minister is to equip people to step up and say, ‘I can do that.’
“One thing that the Churches of Christ believe in is the priesthood of all believers. I don’t wear a special cloth, I am one among the people who is trained to help each of them step into their ministry. Eventually, I’d love to see something like churches where they don’t employ a full-time minister.”
Watkins sees all outreach as a part of the healing journey that their faith espouses.
“There is a need in this world for people to see that violence isn’t the answer,” he said. “To see that genuine love and care really solves most every issue. We’re hoping that in our little neck of the woods we can provide those avenues. If people choose not to take us up on it, that’s fine. Maybe they’re getting it somewhere else. We certainly hope so. Our goal is ultimately so people can see the love of Christ.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.