Ben Clare United Methodist Church is located 15 miles east of Sioux Falls. The worshipping community of about 30 grows to more than 200 when ice cream is served.
“Every summer, for the past couple of decades, members of Ben Clare UMC put on an ice cream social. We serve sandwiches, pie, ice cream, and beverages,” said Rev. Krista Ducker, Ben Clare UMC. “This year, we even had a bouncy house.”
The event did not happen in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. The menu includes pork loin sandwiches, baked beans, potato salad, a variety of chips, pop, coffee, pie, and, of course, ice cream. People gather from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the church grounds. A free-will donation is dedicated toward mission projects. More than $2,900 was raised at this year's ice cream social.
The rural church location means everyone needs to drive to get to the ice cream social, but it is just a short drive for people who live in one of three states.
“We are perfectly located on the border of three states—Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota,” said Pastor Krista. “Folks gather at the ice cream social from all over. It is a great way to fellowship and have fun.”
Members of the congregations start in the spring to prepare for the summer event. Food, music, volunteers, and logistics are organized. This year, Pastor Krista invited members of Ben Clare UMC to reach out with a blessing bag to someone.
“We put together a little invitation with a few small gifts—a blessing bag, and asked people to reach out to someone,” shared Pastor Krista.
Paula Meinen, a member of Ben Clare UMC, did just that. “I decided to stop at the local convenience store and invite the clerk,” said Paula. “I handed her the invitation, and she was so thankful. She was just touched that someone would give her a gift and a special invite. Reaching out, connecting with someone, and spreading some joy felt good.”
Reaching out to someone not part of your church family can be a little intimidating. Paula shares, “I was so glad I invited her, and it was not hard to do.” Paula was delighted to see the community member she invited come and share in the fun. And several congregants reported that recipients of the blessing bags were deeply touched by the gesture of love with no strings attached.
The congregation has been exploring Fresh Expressions. Pastor Krista had a sermon series exploring Fresh Expressions and a team headed to Imagine Day. The ice cream social is one of the ways that the congregation has reached out to the community, and they continue to explore new, fresh ways to express their faith and love for others.
“A great time was had by all at the Ben Clare UMC ice cream social! We raised over $2900 for mission events and brought our community together,” said Pastor Krista. “It was a win-win!”