What do you think about when you hear the word community?
We use the word community a lot in the Christian world, so I think it often evokes feelings of gospel-centered fellowship and uniquely deep friendships. But what about in our ministry context? What comes to mind when you hear the word community in the context of hard, messy, frontlines ministry work?
For me, I think about how we got into one of the clubs here in Louisville. I’d had my eye on this club for years. It was a big, popular strip club chain with establishments all over the country, and it was notorious for hiring very young women. I knew it would be a great place for ministry. But though we had tried several times, we could not convince the bouncer to let us in the doors so that we could meet the manager.
This all changed one day when I got a call from a friend from our network. This woman was the director of a strip club outreach ministry in a different state, and we had been doing ministry together for years, sharing ideas, encouraging one another, and helping each other problem-solve. One day my friend called to tell me that she was in the same club in her city that we had been trying so hard to get into.
“I know you’ve been trying to get into this club,” she said. “And I think I may have a way in!”
She then told me that the night before, during outreach, she was talking to the manager and casually asked him if he had any connections with the club in Louisville. He proudly told my friend that he knew the manager down there really well. My friend explained the situation, and he decided to give her the manager’s number. A couple of phone calls, one meeting with the manager, and tons of prayers later, we were finally invited into this club. Nearly a decade later, we are still at this club every week. Because of someone in my community, we were given the opportunity to minister to hundreds of women and to see God radically change lives.
When I hear the word community, I also think of Mia*. It took us months in the club to build trust with Mia. Past hurt and trauma had caused her to put up thick walls, but slowly over time, God began to soften her heart, and she began to trust us and believe the things we were telling her about the hope and love of Jesus. Unfortunately, Mia moved around a lot, dancing in different clubs in every city she went to. We knew our time was limited with Mia and that she would be moving on soon, and because Mia didn’t trust others easily, this could have felt like an impossible situation. But because of community, we quickly realized that as Mia moved from city to city, we were able to connect her to different people we knew.
The last time I talked to Mia, she told me she’d moved again. “Why didn’t you tell me you were moving?” I asked her. “I may know some people in your new city!”
“Oh, that’s ok,” she said. “I’ve already run into the Church Ladies in the club!”
It’s possible I don’t know these specific “Church Ladies,” but because of this interconnected community, I don’t think it will take years for Mia to trust them. In fact, I think now, when Mia sees Church Ladies in the club, she runs to them instead of from them!
Community can mean many different things, but for us at Scarlet Hope, we believe community is not only necessary—it is vital.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
God has called us to a difficult mission. We are going to dark places where the Enemy thinks he is in total control. We are pursuing people who have trauma and hurt. We know we will be exposed to harsh realities, we will hear the word no frequently, and we are bound to be heartbroken and disappointed. But when we do the work together, we can help support each other and pick each other up when we fall.
So what about you? Do you have a ministry community? If you are struggling with feelings of isolation or burnout, or maybe you’re just hoping to find more co-laborers who you can share ideas and collaborate with, I want to invite you to be a part of our community. We offer coaching, leadership cohorts, and an annual conference for ministry leaders. You can learn more here!
Community is the solution to loneliness and the cure for burnout. Community is also an opportunity to reach many more women in the adult entertainment industry than if we were working alone. Won’t you join us?
*Name as been changed for the protection of the survivor