Pastor Daniel Kerlin’s Pennsylvania church hosts a free summer lunch program. When kids who were on their own or couldn’t tell time were having difficulty showing up on time, they started using their church bell to signal the start of lunchtime. In an era when many church bells stand silent, theirs is inviting a new generation of young people to be fed by the church in body and spirit.
Many kids in our community rely on free or reduced-cost school lunches during the school year. But what about the summer months? For the past two summers, Trinity United Methodist Church in Mifflin, Pennsylvania, has offered a free lunch to neighborhood children three days a week in the summer, working in partnership with the United Way and another local congregation.
We started using our church bell to let the neighborhood kids know that the food was ready, and within minutes, a line of 30 to 40 kids would appear.
The need is real, but many of these kids are on their own during the day, and, we discovered, some can’t tell time. So when we opened the doors for lunch at 11:30 a.m., sometimes only one or two kids would have arrived. Then someone had a great idea! We started using our church bell to let the neighborhood kids know that the food was ready, and within minutes, a line of 30 to 40 kids would appear.
Our program is open to anyone 18-years-of-age or younger. But we find that parents sometimes show up, too, and we are happy to feed them, as well. We served an average of 25 individuals a day, supplementing the resources provided by the United Way with additional food and volunteer time provided by the congregation. In addition to lunch, we usually provide some kind of activity. Sometimes it’s “Veggie Tales” videos, and sometimes it’s free passes to the community pool.
Word-of-mouth is usually sufficient to draw people in for free food and fun. We’ve also used flyers and newspaper announcements to reach people. In an era when many church bells stand silent, here at Trinity, our church bell is calling a new generation of young people to church, to be fed in body and spirit.
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