After working on new ministries for over a decade, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to initiate and implement authentic community. In Keokuk, we were also working on a thread of how to create alternative funding streams for ministry building. The store has been a largely theoretical endeavor due to the disruption in social habits COVID created.
BUT I have seen some lovely examples of what we are working to create.
A lady came in recently who is going through a huge life change. Her marriage has ended, except for the court battle. She has had to relocate, and is trying to do it with kids. She shared some of what she was up against. She wanted to refresh her clothing, and we had a great time finding her things that felt and looked great. That was about an hour of work together. In that time, we covered a lot of ground conversationally - I am pretty sure we are homies (friends) if she comes back in. She was encouraged. She was edified. So was I.
Another lady stopped through after visiting her family locally (not Eureka). She had a rough day and a long drive ahead. She had seen us coming through the intersection and had come back to visit. She was looking at the art and paintings primarily. She shared that it was a really tough visit with her family - her father had told her to never bother coming back. Apparently that is a long standing dynamic she just has to navigate. She is the scapegoat of their family. She lives very far away. I encouraged her and built her up as much as I could. We had a wonderful time.
And recently some kids have started visiting me. They called on the video "help button". But they mostly just wanted to chat. They had recently been through a break up. They had also had their first kiss. It was the sweetest thing. I told them I would like to give them a little something. They immediately asked if they could pick something for their mums. I definitely was not going to say no to that!
I have witnessed dozens of tables full of women, similar in age, community, faith background... sit silently with a printout of a Bible study in front of them, unable to utter a word about their lives, their struggles, their insights because the modality is broken. It simply does not work. Not well anyway.
I am working on an alternative. And enjoying the sweet moments along the way!
Apparel and shop ministry Concepts
Why a store? The Scriptures offer a clear pathway for ministry planting through the work of Paul. He would move to an area and engage in his craft (tent making) while forming connections and teaching about the faith of the Christ. He affiliated with fine cloth merchants to build ministry!
Why emphasize apparel? Apparel is considered throughout Scripture as an expression of praise, honor, and a blessing the Lord provides to His people. "Garments of praise, garments of splendor" are to be used to edify ourselves and express honor of the Lord. Edification is the call of the Christ-follower. We are to encourage one another and support each other with love and care in this world. We are to "outdo one another showing honor." One of the primary ways the Lord shows honor and expects humans to show honor is through apparel!
Why decor? Scripture is to be applied to our lives, used as adornment, placed throughout our homes and workplaces, and considered throughout each and every day. We are to acknowledge the Lord in ALL our ways. (Much of our handmade jewelry and art and decor is made with this in mind!)
This is an experiment and an obedient following of the Lord's direction. We are instructed clearly to humble ourselves and learn from the Lord without considering ourselves wise! It is vital for us to continue learning, growing, and striving - for servanthood, for peace, for our own salvation, growing in the cultivation of the Lord. All the while, we must be rejecting harm, condemnation, judgement, scorn, division, and accusation. Even when it comes to our shopping habits, time with friends, going out and about, setting up our homes, and even being alone with ourselves. We are creating something that is fundamentally welcoming, humble, ethical, creative, edifying, and relies on and encourages generosity!
I have asked this question so many times over the last couple years!
Over the course of humanity, and the course of Christianity, the creativity of the species has represented an intersection of the spiritual with the natural. The Church is responsible for supporting and encouraging this expression for the edification of the Body of Christ. Great visionaries like Michaelangelo, Bach, DaVinci and countless others have been supported and commissioned through the resources of people of faith.