Most college students head to the beach for Spring Break, but 450 college students from Clemson University’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes in South Carolina did the exact opposite over their recent break. They headed for Philadelphia. The caravan of students arrived on Saturday night and quickly set to work helping church planters, collegiate ministers, local ministry centers, church planting catalysts and established churches impact their communities and share the good news of Jesus.
Teams of students worked with established churches like Pastor Robert Fontell at Calvary Christian Church and Pastor Alonzo Johnson at Believer’s Bible Fellowship. They also worked with local Philadelphia community resources, such as the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and other homeless shelters in the region. Other students assisted Stanley Williams, the director of Baptist Collegiate Ministries for Philadelphia, engage local campuses.
Some of the students assisted church planting catalysts with the North American Mission Board, Hal Hopkins and Todd Beel, to exegete communities for future church plants. Teams developed contacts for a potential church plant in the Northwest suburbs and built relationships in Upper Darby as a potential future church planting site. The teams also worked with current church planters.
Eric McMahon, a church planter at Watershed Church in Roxborough, called them “one of his best teams ever.” He raved about their energy, excitement and willingness to jump in and creatively take on new projects he had not considered. One group was doing some work for some widows in his community and while visiting with the homeowner, noticed paint peeling from her inside walls. The students volunteered to scrap and paint the wall, and the delighted homeowner bawled her eyes out at their kindness!
Gerald Waters, a church planter at Proclamation Community Church in North Philadelphia, said this was his first mission team he had ever used, and was a little skeptical, but was quickly blown away by how hard working and respectful they were. He said the team was a “powerful catalyst to excite my church to serve the community.” He said many of his church members were hesitant to approach people in the community, but after seeing these students boldly sharing their faith, they were eager to get out and do the same! As a result of their efforts, they saw a new family visit on the following Sunday!
Brian Dobak, a church planter at Streamsong Church in Doylestown, said that he also was impressed with the attitudes of these students. He used a team of students to minister to the elderly in his community and also hang hundreds of door hangers — a task that they wanted to do for a long time, but did not have the time to which to allocate people. He said their presence “was like a shot of adrenaline” getting him and his team excited about the church plant all over again!
Jeff Hill, a church planter at Redemption1010 in Norristown, also praised the students. They assisted his church by partnering with the local parks and recreation department and the homeless outreach center. As a result of their work, the team and Hill were interviewed by the director of administration for Norristown and thanked for their hard work!
Josh Crans, a church planter at Providence Church in Coatesville, said the students in his area allowed him to accomplish many of the tasks his church had been wanting to do, but unable to do. The students assisted with local clean up projects and tutored elementary students at a local school. Like several of the planters, he spoke of how the team was a catalyst for momentum and service for his church.
Mark Turner, a church planter at Redemption Heights Church in Overbrook, had not started services yet, but utilized a team to hang door hangers inviting the community to an information meeting about the forthcoming church plant. They were able to distribute several thousand door hangers inviting people. Turner was impressed that afterwards several of the students checked in with him to let him know they were praying for the event and wanted to know how it went!
Everyone who encountered the young people seemed moved by their sacrifice and willingness to jump in and make a difference in a city far from home. Several mentioned how the students expressed future interest in church planting or helping new churches be started after college. Their hard work transformed the city, encouraged those called to minister here and just might be the catalyst for new planters, pastors and ministry leaders in the days ahead!