OneLife Church in Springfield, Missouri, was still excited about Christmas months after it ended—all because of Angel Tree®, a program of Prison Fellowship®. The church had joined thousands of others across the country to minister to prisoners' children by delivering a gift, the Gospel message, and a personal message on behalf of the children's incarcerated mom or dad.
And Misty Clardie decided to take OneLife church's participation a few steps further. Literally.
STEPPING IT UP
Misty is the wife of OneLife pastor Chad Clardie. In early December, their church of 250 held a 5K to raise money—and people's enthusiasm—for Angel Tree.
"My husband knew it was time for us to start another ministry to connect with people where they are—not where we are," says Misty. "And it's not about having endless resources. It's about outreach."
An event like a 5K, Chad explains, "gives people who might not normally participate [in Angel Tree] a desire to do it. People want to run for a cause."
And it didn't just offer OneLife-goers a fun way to fundraise. It created a unique environment to connect with Angel Tree families on a level they might not otherwise have reached. "A drop-off might be the only interaction you have with that family," says Chad. "We wanted to meet them outside that, in a place that is safe and fun and invites that relational connection. And then we invited them to follow-up events."
“It's about building bridges with families,” adds Misty.
MORE THAN A NAME
Overall the day was a resounding success, and all proceeds went to Angel Tree—Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree, Misty emphasized to her church family. The best part was knowing that the families they were serving lived right in their own ZIP code. She took care to explain that the day they set up their tree adorned with Angel Tree name tags.
OneLife plans to provide even more gifts next year, and will continue ministering with similar events.
"We want [Angel Tree families] to come to church on Sunday, sure," says Misty. "But to really make a lasting impact, we need to start building those relationships."