For the love of its community, Iowa church cancels services

Michael Smith

Former Converge Content Specialist

  • Missions

After helping to clean up a homeless camp in Des Moines, Iowa, John, a police officer, returned the next day to serve a warrant to a man at the camp. Despite being served the warrant, the man remembered John and thanked him for his work the previous day.

Sarah was working with a nonprofit that supports single parents, when she realized that her friend was one of the families they were helping. Sarah and her friend had some great conversations about church, and Sarah’s friend was deeply encouraged and grateful for the volunteers.

A group of volunteers were handing out gift cards to people around the community. One of the volunteers gave a card to a Starbucks employee. The man started to tear up and said, “You have no idea how much this means. Every little bit helps right now. Thanks so much!”

All of these emotional connections were made possible because of Revision Church’s Reach Des Moines (ReachDSM) event.

Revision holds ReachDSM whenever there is a fifth Sunday in a month (four or five times a year). On that day the church cancels its Sunday worship services, and the congregation spreads out around the city to serve people in need through local nonprofit partners.

Revision, which was planted by Renovation Church, Blaine, Minnesota, and enCompass Church, Roseville, Minnesota, in 2015, held its first ReachDSM in July 2015. Volunteers cleaned up a city park, cleaned the elementary school that the church meets in, prepared a meal for a homeless shelter, prepared and served a meal for a youth shelter and cleaned and organized a men’s shelter.

Other partners the church has worked with include the Des Moines and West Des Moines school districts, the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus, homeless missions, at-risk youth organizations, a crisis pregnancy center and a farming cooperative for refugees.

Canceling a worship service doesn’t come from the typical church playbook. Lead pastor Mike Howard said inspiration for ReachDSM comes from Scripture. He points to Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“Our desire is to pursue that mission,” he says. “This means serving the city with our time, abilities and resources. God is inviting us to be a part of writing a better story and a better future for those around us, and we are passionate about accepting that invitation and helping our community flourish.”

Community outreach pastor Courtney Straka and her husband came up with the idea for ReachDMS. She says the organizations Revision has partnered with have been grateful and excited to have the church serve with them.

“Many of them have told me that they are surprised that a church would be willing to cancel services to go out into the community to serve,” she said.

Straka recommends that other churches pray about starting a fifth Sunday outreach in their community — “and when God says ‘yes,’ then do it.”

“This has been a great experience for our church,” she said. “We are so passionate about serving our community, investing in the needs around us and sharing the love of Jesus with those around us.

“We desperately want to see the city and people of Des Moines flourish, and we want to be a church that makes a positive impact in our community.”

Michael Smith, Former Converge Content Specialist

Michael Smith served as a content specialist for Converge from 2018-2021.

Additional articles by Michael Smith