Enjoy this detailed interview with Sam and Mike Kling, the microchurch leaders for Gateway. Hear what they're doing to connect with their community.
What is your microchurch?
It is a combined house church and outreach where we connect people who have resources to people who do not have as many resources. We meet bi-weekly for a Bible study and bi-weekly for an outreach, which has evolved and looked differently through the years. We were first helping one family who was unhoused run a laundromat, we helped generate a lawn mowing business for a few unhoused families, volunteered with the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and Food Pantry, and are currently preparing and delivering food/hygiene supplies to unhoused and homeless families near our St. Petersburg neighborhood.
Tell me about the people you serve.
The majority of these people are unhoused, or homeless. They form a very transient community along 38th Avenue North and have had to relocate due to changing laws and construction of private businesses. They each have a unique story to tell, and often value our company just as much as they value our resources. A woman once told us that she “just needed someone to talk to; someone who wasn’t going to judge her or see her as a hand out.”
What are the major challenges your ministry is facing right now?
With the rampant spread of Covid-19, we are finding it challenging to sustain community and conduct outreaches the way we used to. Although we use zoom for our Bible study, a lot of our members are feeling “zoomed out,” and are having a harder time engaging on the digital plane. Many of us are also immunocompromised, including myself, which has made in-person out reach difficult. We go in smaller groups of two, but that has also dwindled.
What (if anything) is your microchurch doing currently?
We are using zoom for our Bible Study and are doing the best we can to connect with our team members one on one outside of zoom. We are also still conducting in person outreach, but in a smaller setting. (groups of two).
What is one thing that you tried that worked, and what is one thing that you tried that didn’t work?
Although our zoom Bible Study numbers are dwindling, I think most of the people in our community still feel loved despite the social distancing because we have made an effort to be engaged in each other’s lives. Something that didn’t work was large group outreaches, as many of us still feel uncomfortable with Covid exposure.
How have people responded to things your ministry is currently doing? How have the people that you’re serving seen God work?
Although the numbers are currently lower (between 5-10 people weekly), God is still at work and moving in both our Bible Study and out reach. Our Bible Study as a community has gotten stronger and the people we love on during outreach have really felt blessed by our continued presence despite the quarantine. Some of them have even started asking for Bibles and are more open than before to spiritual conversations.
What is one thing you are hopeful for your ministry coming out of quarantine?
I hope we can start to see more people coming out to Bible Study, which I pray will be in person and not on zoom. I also hope that we can lead some of the people we’ve been faithfully visiting during outreach to the Lord; seeking Jesus with them for guidance to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.
How are you doing as a leader?
I am definitely missing how things used to be. I’m thankful for zoom, but it will never replace a home cooked meal and in person Bible study. I also miss the regulars we encounter during outreach. Since I am currently immunocompromised, I cannot physically attend, and long to see them. One of the guys we see always asks about my students in the classroom, and always has a new factoid for me to teach them. It pains me that I can’t see him, or the rest of them.
What is one thing you are hopeful for you personally during quarantine?
I hope I can continue to rest, which is something I’ve needed for a long time, and something that will not be available for ever, since we are about to have a baby.
Is there something Jesus is putting on your heart to prepare for when quarantine lifts?
I definitely sense change, and feel Jesus gently telling me to open up my hand.
The St. Pete Underground is a faith-based non-profit missional movement that empowers local missionaries to live out their God-given dreams. To learn more about the St. Pete Underground and Gateway check out their microchurch page here.