By Carl Stagner
Much of society simply writes them off. Politicians may see them as just another statistic. Often the family that should care simply doesn’t. But Gail Bigler cares. West Court Street Church of God in Flint, Michigan, cares. They recognize that, without an intersection between faith and community, the future for many children is bleak. But at Intersection, an after-school ministry of West Court Street Church of God, caring volunteers take a step in the right direction toward addressing a prevalent need.
“Many kids in our neighborhood spend a lot of time unsupervised,” Gail Bigler, Intersection coordinator, explains. “Parents, particularly fathers, are absent in the home. There are drugs and violence on the streets.” Additionally, she explains that standardized testing scores at the nearby school were among the lowest in the entire state. “We set out to help the kids academically and relationally,” Gail continues. “That’s been our goal—to help change the trajectory for their future.”
Each Wednesday, Intersection offers a safe place for children to go after school,
hang out, have fun, learn, and be loved. Eleven volunteer staff facilitate the ministry program, though only about seven are required to run the program each week. The volunteers help kids with their homework, though many don’t reliably bring it with them. But always at-the-ready are books, math games, music, science activities, crafts, and more. Eight computer stations are set up and prescreened for safe and fun learning. Dinner is also provided, thanks to a cooperative arrangement with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.
“Intersection came to be because a point of need crossed a point of passion,” Gail explains. “Our traditional Wednesday children and youth programs were diminishing in leadership to the point that we were going to discontinue our midweek program. At the time, a few kids from the neighborhood had been attending our traditional program on a regular basis, and the thought of leaving them without a place to come was difficult to accept.”
But the motivation for a new outreach program didn’t stop there. The church was all too familiar with the grim statistics that communicated far-less-than-ideal prospects for the local children. So after a merger of the kids and youth ministries into one family-style program, the church got together to recruit willing servants. The ideal candidates would have a heartfelt desire to sustain a ministry to neighborhood children, provide a safe after-school alternative, and help determine how the church could make a long-term, future-altering impact on the kids. “Intersection was birthed by committed individuals who were not satisfied to ignore the children in our neighborhood,” Gail reflects.
Many students rely on free lunch assistance throughout the school year, but are left high and dry during the summer. So during the summer, West Court Street Church of God meets another practical need for area children. The church, as an extension of Intersection, has stepped in to fill that void. By partnering with the food bank, the church offers a fresh lunch every weekday through the summer months.
“There are strong relationships being built between leaders and the kids,” Gail explains. “Some of the leaders remain in contact and offer help outside of the defined Intersection time. When we see them outside of the church, they are excited to talk to us. Some relationships have developed with the families of Intersection children, as well. Even though we don’t see most of them on Sunday morning, they would consider West Court their church.”
Last summer, one of the church’s small groups purchased age-appropriate Bibles for the children of Intersection. Many of the children get excited to report how much they’ve read each week. In this kind of spiritual climate, it has become clear that Jesus is the subject. At Intersection, the truth of Jesus is shared through God’s Word, and the love of Jesus is lived out in action.
Learn how the Church of God is making Jesus the subject at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.