Staci Schefka, Brighton Church Health Ministries director, introduces attendees at an event.
In Michigan, the approximately 50-member Brighton Church is reaching its community through cooking and health classes, while also leading people to the gospel message. Since its inception as a church plant, it has had a strong focus on health ministry in its outreach to the city’s population of 7,500.
“[At the beginning,] the members prayed about possible ways to reach their community with the gospel and decided their emphasis would be community health education through plant-based cooking classes and wellness and natural remedies seminars,” explained Staci Schefka, Health Ministries director of the Brighton Church.
Even before the church secured a building to hold events, they held classes in libraries, hotels and community centers. The church was able to promote the events by setting up fair booths and going door-to-door. “More and more people began to attend our regular cooking and health classes and plant-based fellowship lunches on Sabbath. Prior to 2020, we had developed a health interest list of well over 150 names,” Staci said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many churches ceased doing community outreach, the church’s health ministry continued to thrive. “Our church saw this as a perfect opportunity to reach people with our health message which was more relevant now than ever.”
The ministry pivoted to the digital arena, holding its first online class in December 2020.
“We had a lot of fun personally coaching our guests during this interactive cooking experience and watching them enjoy the dishes they created with us,” Staci said of the guests who cooked a plant-based holiday meal. Up to 75 guests often attended the demonstrations, which became monthly events. Later, the ministry decided to alternate between cooking classes and “health connection meet-ups,” where presenters taught attendees learned about topics such as immune and emotional health.
The church continued to hold online events monthly until August 2021. “We did not lose momentum, and it made it easier to transition to in-person events once things began to open up more.”
The ministry’s first in-person event was a meet-and-greet event called “Dinner by the Garden.” “It was a combination of a cottage and herb garden tour (both of which are on our church property), a PowerPoint presentation shared by our pastor, Steve Schefka, on the significance of gardens in the Bible, and a full dinner featuring local garden produce,” said Staci.
“We weren’t sure how many would come, but we had 46 in attendance, including 30 community guests, non-member family members, and friends!” She said the event encouraged the ministry to hold more events because it demonstrated that people were ready to reconnect. Since then, the church has held multiple successful in-person events, including plant-based cooking classes, hydrotherapy training, presentations on “the gut-brain connection,” and several other events.
In every class, the team has a brief devotional and specifically tells attendees that as a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they believe in biblical principles of health. Bible studies on the topic of health are regularly offered, as well as free literature and books such as The Ministry of Healing and Steps to Christ. Participants are invited to come to a “soup and study” Bible study group.
She says the response has been phenomenal. “We had 19 non-members attend at least one of these sessions. Several have continued in Bible studies and even come to church.” Because the ministry participated in summer festivals, “We signed up many for our classes and had great interactions with community civic leaders. Several also signed up for Bible studies.” In addition, at least one of these interests has expressed a desire to be baptized.
“Health ministries,” she noted, “is just the avenue that God has given us—the right arm of the gospel—that will gain people’s trust and open the door for sharing further truth with them.”
You can find out more information about New Beginnings Health and the Brighton Church on Facebook, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samuel Girven, 15, is a student at Northview Adventist School and ASPIRE Academy.