How can a church reach the community when its residents are unresponsive to invitations about evangelistic meetings? The Petoskey Seventh-day Adventist Church in Michigan, United States, used health as an avenue, and more than 40 people attended a recent supper club.
Supper clubs were the idea of the Michigan Conference Health Ministries department and were launched in many churches in 2007. Vicki Griffin, director of Michigan Conference Health Ministries, and her board members encouraged churches of any size to open their doors to conduct health programs for their community, with the promise that their department would provide support and resources such as videos, slides, magazines, and possibly speakers.
Petoskey church member Debbie Norris was familiar with more traditional ways of evangelism and had little interest in the supper club idea. After she read this statement by Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White: “When properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making way for other truths to reach the heart” (Counsels on Health, p. 434), she reluctantly agreed to help coordinate some health outreach.
The very first night, Norris said, she was surprised by a great turnout from the community and became excited. “The Holy Spirit began to impress me, ‘This is the evangelism you were looking for.’ ” Norris and the other church members decided they would create the Heart Healthy Supper Club and have met consistently each month since it began.
Since its inception, more than 200 community individuals have come through the doors, learning about the Petoskey church, meeting its members, and enjoying the presentations and food. Church members have met people from all over the Petoskey area, including a local pastor and his family, who have regularly attended the club. Between 20 and 40 guests attend each month.
Supported by donations, the supper club welcomes guests for talks by members and experts on topics such as exercise, nutrition, and resources. Members provide food, recipes, cooking demonstrations, and friendship. Topics cover natural remedies, depression, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, plant-based diets, gardening, hypertension, fiber, and other topics people request.
Church members advertise by newspaper and email, as well as invite their friends. Several guests have taken Bible studies and attended church services.
One woman who now attends Petoskey church is Kim. “I love our supper club because it helps me learn about selecting healthy foods,” she said. “I also love getting to meet new people every month. People here are so friendly, and that is why I keep coming back." Kim invited her friend, Debbie, and she enjoyed the experience. “I learned how to lower my blood pressure through adopting a healthier lifestyle,” Debbie said.
Petoskey Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Cody Francis said that even though the ministry is relatively small, God has blessed their efforts in several ways. “Petoskey members work as a team each month — cooking, cleaning, greeting, and mingling with the guests. We are thrilled when it results in Bible studies and some attending our church services,” he said. “We are praying that eternal connections can be made through this outreach.”