United Methodists are on a lifelong journey to follow Jesus every day. John Wesley taught the early Methodists to meet together in small groups called classes, to help one another along the way. Wesley United Methodist Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, under the leadership of Rev. Jeff Lathrop, encourages members to gather in small groups that will help them grow in love of God and neighbor.
Wesley UMC began A Journey of Service small group this fall. Gathering one Sunday each month, participants experience an evening of food and fellowship, a time of learning about and dedication to service opportunities in the community. Attendees are also encouraged to volunteer, donate, or serve in a variety of ways.
In September, Sue Shirek, executive director of Northlands Rescue Mission, presented information to those in attendance and invited participants to volunteer at the Rescue Mission to serve meals. Participants were asked to bring a variety of supplies to be used in the Mission’s activities as well as financial contributions to its many programs.
In October, 24 participants learned of a brand new program launched by the Grand Forks Community Violence Intervention Center. Attendees brought items and financial offerings to be used by that agency.
Rev. Jerry Bass, a retired elder of the Dakotas Conference and a member of Wesley UMC, was invited by Lathrop to coordinate A Journey of Service. Bass modeled the group after another small group previously conducted at Wesley UMC, A Journey Through Faith. “The idea is that people gather for fellowship, learning, and figure out how we can act or live out what we are learning about,” says Bass.
Participants are returning each month to connect with each other and with community agencies that are serving neighbors throughout the area. Attendees learn about needs and services that they did not know about before. “Sometimes, we kind of get stuck with our favorite mission project. This really opens our eyes,” Bass says.
Future destinations for the Journey of Service small group will feature such service agencies as the Salvation Army and Altru Health System’s new Sunshine Hospitality House.
Members of Grand Forks Wesley UMC are fitting the small group into their already jam-packed schedules. Participants are setting aside time to connect with others, learn about who their neighbors are, and serve on their lifelong journey to follow Jesus.