Arundel Christian Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, believes that humankind was made for more. This means they leverage the gifts, talents, and abilities that God has given people to serve and engage both in church and in the local community. Although Arundel Christian Church (ACC) finds ways to live out its mission daily, COVID-19 presented ACC with new opportunities to live out their beliefs in practical ways, drawing droves of its members to the forefront of the pandemic.
Filling the Gap
One opportunity for generosity arose as church “partners” (what ACC calls its members) made sure that Arundel Christian Church had enough resources to continue its ministries. The church has not experienced any significant decline in giving.
“Those who have the ability are giving more generously, filling the gap for those who are unable to give at this time,” said Matt Ousdahl, Lead Pastor.
“Those who have the ability are giving more generously, filling the gap for those who are unable to give at this time.”—@MattOSays, Lead Pastor
A second opportunity came as ACC established the Arundel Christian Church Care Fund, designed for partners to give to other partners of ACC who have come into financial hardship during the pandemic. This is specifically the church body taking care of the church body. There has been an increase in the fund, with people giving above and beyond, knowing that their money is being used for the practical side of this crisis.
Partnering with the Community
Another generosity opportunity was external: ACC was able to turn their weekly soup kitchen and food pantry into a food assistance program once the pandemic hit, and it has become the largest in its county. When other community programs shut down, Arundel Christian Church was able to provide groceries, meals, and necessities to hundreds of individuals and families each week.
In March alone, 409 households were served. In April that number grew to 418.
“We are one of the largest food banks in Anne Arundel County,” said Jen Dunning, Director of Children’s Ministry. “We feed over 300 families a month, and that’s just our regular stats. What happened with COVID is we were able to ramp that up.”
Arundel Christian Church
Arundel Christian Church has leveraged their community partnerships to be a beacon of hope during these challenging times. In alignment with its “Love God, Love People, Serve Our Community” vision, ACC has gained resources and support from several community organizations. The county and state food banks give the church food on a monthly basis because of the great need. ACC also collects donations from its church partners and connects with other local churches who are collecting food to distribute the goods as needed. Arundel Christian Church created a separate 501c3 called Harvest Resources, which has enabled the community outreach and COVID-19 relief efforts to happen more easily.
In addition, Arundel Christian Church partners with Grace House Recovery, a network consisting of eight sober living homes with 85 people. ACC partners have provided more than 400 home-cooked meals since the pandemic. They also enlist the services of YES CHEF! to deliver ready-to-eat meals to the homes.
“You have eased the minds of so many men and women during this pandemic,” Patricia Crowley, owner of Grace House Recovery, told ACC. “I just can’t thank you enough!”
As Arundel Christian Church continues to make a great impact and respond to various community needs during the COVID-19 era, the leaders have also been brainstorming safe practices for its reopen.
Sunday, June 14 was ACC’s soft opening, where leaders and some partners were invited to attend services. This allowed their First Impressions Team to learn how to lead people into and out of the building. It also allowed ACC’s team to run through how communion would be distributed and how offering collection would work. The church has created specific entry and exit points in order to maintain a steady flow that fosters healthy social distancing. ACC has also removed pew Bibles, envelopes, and pens from the sanctuary chairs to help in limiting high touch areas.
Arundel Christian Church
These efforts, according to the soft opening attendees, have created a comfortable atmosphere for a COVID-19 church gathering experience.
“All things went very smoothly with a few kinks to work out,” Jen said.
ACC also had a Father's Day drive-in service that was well attended.
“We filled up the parking lot pretty well,” Jen noted. “There were people scattered, sitting on our grass area. We had our worship band up on the stage, doing their deal on the porch, and our lead pastor was on a platform so people could see him better. We had a good crowd.”
Engaging Children & Youth
Arundel Christian Church plans to open up all three of its normal services to everyone on Sunday, June 28. To help ease the crowds and to provide a healthy experience, ACC has created several overflow options ready to maintain safe distance. Children’s Ministry and Youth, however, will remain closed for several weeks until ACC leaders can get a better gauge on healthy practices and protocol for youth and children.
“Our best guess would be to open in September,” Jen said. “However, we will be taking our cues from the school system.”
Despite not having children’s programming, Jen and the team have created fun alternative options for kids and youth to still learn and participate in church life. The team has created online events like Bizarre Bible Stories that stream every Saturday morning. Jen shares rare Bible stories and lessons that aren’t normally taught in Sunday School. The youth volunteers also have Thursday online gatherings where students share and exchange smoothie recipes as a way of keeping the youth connected in a fun and engaging way.
In addition, ACC’s annual VBS program, called Kidventure Week, will now be a 3-day interactive online experience.
“We had over 250 kids part of the program last year,” Jen said. “And we want kids to jump in and to be able to participate with us this year. We already have 50 kids registered and registrations are still trickling in.”