The boldest ventures often start modestly.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Bethany Community Church Pastor Phil McCutchen placed a tractor trailer in his Mendon, Massachusetts church parking lot with the sign “Katrina Relief.”
“I knew if we could fill it in a week, I had church members who would get it to New Orleans,” said Pastor Phil. But instead of one trailer, they filled six with donations from the community.
That experience gave birth to Compassion New England (CNE).
Leaders from Bethany, a church of 400 members, had a new inspiration and vision. The Blessing Barn, a traditional thrift store that started in the church years before, began to grow.
In 2008, the church rented 5,000 square feet of retail space and began to envision a more dignified thrift store experience where people in need would not have to sort through donated “vintage” goods as if it were junk. Donated goods were displayed attractively and professionally for a unique shopping experience. Every customer and donor received a summary of needs met in the community and a report of the ministry services CNE offered.
Today, three moves later, the Blessing Barn has two locations with 65,000 square feet of retail space. Blessing Barn is well known in the community for freely giving clothes, furniture and goods to those in need. However, it is equally well-known as a fine vintage store that attracts sophisticated shoppers from throughout the region.
Last year, CNE invested $243,811 into its community. This impact is impressive, but there is more!
- Located within each store is a large ministry area where qualifying community groups are invited to meet free of charge. In addition, this space has been utilized for GED classes and a Celebrate Recovery program.
- Three years ago, CNE created “The Happy Place” to offer free, short-period care for stay-at-home caregivers of handicapped children and adults. “These are people who never get a day off,” said Cheri McCutchen. The Happy Place is now offering overnight respite care in the form of nine sleep-away camps.
- CNE also operates an internship program to provide opportunities for women who have been previously incarcerated and need job training as well as life skills.
If you have felt the whisper of a Grander Vision, there are three insights to take away from the CNE story.
- A Grander Vision is born when leaders take the risk to step out in faith and meet a real need–whether in business or ministry.
- A Grander Vision adds value to all stakeholders.
- A Grander Vision often starts with a simple step of faith. And if faithfully and patiently served, it will expand and have an exponential impact.
Jesus said to the faithful servant, Because you were faithful with small things, I will let you care for much greater things.
Dennis Baril is the former senior pastor of Community Covenant Church in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, where he served in leadership for over 40 years—27 of which were as senior pastor. He and his wife, Donna are traveling around the country, supporting the GLS and seizing on other ministry opportunities as they emerge.