Grace Community Church strives to live up to its name. Pastor Rick Hale says the church’s philosophy is a bit different than most.
“Our philosophy is upside down,” Hale said, “or as we call it right side up. We think the biblical model is that the goal of the pastor is to equip, train, resource and support members to actually do the ministry.”
Hale sees his role as more administrative.
“Every member is a minister and every ministry matters to God,” Hale said. “What makes Grace different is that I’m not the minister. A lot of churches hire the guy who does all the ministry, he does all the teaching, hospital visitations, funerals, weddings.
“Pastor comes from the biblical term for shepherd. The pastors job is to equip people to do the ministry. I spend 99 percent of my time doing administration. That frees up the members to do the ministration part of it.”
Grace’s outreach is so varied that they keep track of it all in a book.
“We have a ministry handbook with a brief description of every ministry in the church,” he said. “A portion are in house, but a portion is community focused.”
Hale said it’s all about passion.
“If a person is serving where their heart is, where they have passion, they’ll have fun and get more done,” he said. “They decide where they want to serve. Then we come alongside.”
One example of the way Hale works involved a dream his wife, Mary, wanted to fulfill.
“At first the fine arts camp was just an idea that my wife had,” he said. “Working with her, we helped flesh it out. What’s it going to look like? What’s it going to take? How do we get the word out? From that beginning it grew to a point that literally in two weeks we closed down our entire campus. Every square inch of this building, including outside was in use.”
The camp serves over 200 children every year. Their focus on children and youth is foundational.
“We have our Top Ten Values at Grace,” Hale said. “These are things we don’t compromise on. No. 9 is that children and youth will always be a top priority at Grace. Right now we’re sending kids to camp. There’s no way we could run the fine arts camp if we didn’t subsidize it. We are 19 years old and we’ve never ever told a kid, ‘Sorry you can’t go to camp, you haven’t got the money.’
“This week we have over 60 kids at Fort Lone Tree up in Capitan,” Hale said. “That’s elementary school kids. Next week we’re sending about 50 teenagers to Glorieta for a week camp and the next week is Fine Arts Camp. We spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on children and youth.
“When people see our budget and ask how come we spend that much money on children and youth I say, ‘Because we don’t have more.’ The need is there. We see what’s happening to our kids in our community. Anything we can do to get a kid out of a bad environment into a good environment even for a week, we’ll do it.”
Caring for the children means supporting the entire family, and Grace does this like few churches do.
“We run Divorce Care and Divorce Care for kids on the same night. Parents leave their kids in the kids class,” Hale said. “They have divorce care videos and leaders on their level while the parents are in a separate room getting information on experiencing separation and divorce.
Our No. 1 goal is to save marriages. But sometimes things don’t work out. Right now in America, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce.”
Grief support goes hand in hand with divorce support.
“We’ve got Grief share,” Hale said. “We have videos from leading experts in grief recovery. We show a video, turn it off and then the leader will guide a discussion. We run these almost non-stop.”
Sometimes all that’s needed is some adult time.
“Grace Refresh is a time for moms of young children to have some relaxing time,” Hale said. “They come up here, drop their kids off at the nursery, then they go in and they might have a brunch, or a guest speaker. They might have a program or they might just visit. It’s just to give moms a break where they get to talk to other adults.”
While Reflections in Recovery is not sponsored by Grace, it started there and the church has many members working with them still.
Financial Peace University was brought to Roswell some years ago, through the church by Kurt Gass. It’s still in place helping people learn how to manage their money and pay down debt.
Brad Ussery, director of the Community Kitchen, is a member of Grace and it has become his ministry.
“The fourth Monday of each month is our team’s time,” Hale said. “We’re excited about the new building for Community Kitchen.”
Another ministry that started at Grace and has become independent is Harvest Ministries.
“Harvest Ministries started right here,” Hale said. “Rubie would come in and say ‘Rick, I’ve got this idea!’ We provided an office for Rubie probably for a year while he was getting it together. He knew where every homeless guy lived, and what their names were. We send a team down every week to help at Harvest Ministries.”
Ron Biggers runs Street Smart Ministries, a prison outreach.
“He runs a team of people who do prison ministry,” Hale said. “It’s not just the weekly thing. We throw a Christmas party for families who have dads or moms in prison, and all the kids get a Christmas gift. Ron organizes that. We’ll put out cards to send to the prisoners, and people will sign them. So a prisoner will get a card and read that 40 or 50 people are praying for them.”
Sometimes their ministry goes well past the local community.
“Operation Christmas Child is run by Theresa McKee,” Hale said. “Samaritan’s Purse collects shoeboxes filled with useful items for the needy. I wish I had half of Theresa’s organizing skills. Because of her we are now a regional center for Samaritan’s Purse.”
The Bless Your Heart Quilt Ministry reaches out to Roswell and the world at large.
“They make quilts and deliver them to children in CASA and people who’ve been bereaved by the loss of a loved one,” Hale said. “They’ll send these to someone anywhere in the world. They’ll quilt in the person’s name, pray over the quilt and send it out. We have pictures of people in a hospital bed with their quilt over them.”
The church also has a life purpose coaching center that helps people who need to find direction in their lives. Pastor Hale is excited about the way his congregation reaches out in ministry. He is always looking for another idea for a way that the church can serve.
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.