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Grants help small town/rural churches serve their communities

Posted: November 24 2019 at 07:31 AM
Author: By Diane Strzelecki, NIC Communications Specialist


On Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019, pastors and lay members from small town/rural churches across the NIC gathered to celebrate the ministries made possible through Martin Keagy and Planned Acts of Christian Kindness (P.A.C.K.) grants awarded in 2019.

Attendees enjoyed worship, prayer, and messages from Rockford District Superintendent Rev. Fabiola Grandon-Mayer and DeKalb District Superintendent Rev. Brian Gilbert. The event featured leaders from grantee churches speaking about ministries ranging from after-school programs to elder care to literacy programs—even ice cream socials! Several presentations outlined building projects that made churches more accessible to people who worship there and live in their communities. 

“What a refreshing reminder of God's diverse and meaningful ministry throughout our Conference!” remarked the Rev. Mary Bohall (Mendota: First) and Keagy Town and Rural Committee Chair. “Each church had a unique story to share about the impactful ministry provided in small communities helped through grant funding.”

Sara Robbe, a member of Apple River UMC involved with their summer reading program, enjoyed the festival. “It’s fantastic! This was the second year I attended,” she said. “Just hearing all of the different things that different churches are doing to reach out to communities and seeking unique opportunities to bring people to Jesus—I love going and getting new ideas.” 

This is the second year Robbe’s church received a Keagy Grant for their three-week summer reading program. “Through building relationships in Sunday school classes, our pastor discovered that many kids weren’t reading at grade level,” she said, adding that her pastor reached out to her to help with the growing program because of her teaching experience. In 2018, 13 students were enrolled; 2019 saw 23 students participate. 

“The grant was critical: it helped us purchase the curriculum and about 15 children’s Bibles,” she said. “We were able to purchase quality materials and some really good critical thinking games that we use in the last half-hour of each day.”

Robbe is very grateful for the funding. “The grant was everything, otherwise we wouldn’t have had the funds to start the program,” she says. 

Bohall has been spreading the word across the NIC about the grants “A lot of people think these grants are just for churches in the Rockford and DeKalb districts, but they are for any small town/rural church in the conference—especially those engaging in hands-on ministry,” she said, adding that important work happens in small churches.  

“Sometimes we have this picture that we need big, powerful churches with lots of money to do ministry, but our faith started with a poor rabbi and ragtag teenagers following him around,” Bohall says. 

“All we need is faithfulness to God and he will make it work and do the Kingdom work through us.”

2019 Keagy/P.AC.K. Grants Awarded

P.A.C.K. grants of more than $4,500 were awarded in amounts ranging from $250 to 500. Funds are part of the NIC budget. Keagy grants of more than $25,000 were awarded in amounts ranging from $500 to $3,000. Funds are drawn from a trust specifically dedicated to small town and rural churches. 

  • Apple River – Reading Program
  • Brookville – Easter Egg Hunt
  • Capron UMC – Neighbor’s Night
  • Cedarville UMC – Caring for Others, TOMY’s Project, and Summer Fun Thursday
  • Elizabeth UMC – Messy Church and Backpack Food Ministry
  • Esmond UMC – Generator Project and School Supplies Ministry 
  • Forreston UMC – Adventure Club
  • Harmon UMC – Vacation Bible School 
  • Marseilles UMC – Summer Feeding Program
  • Mendota: First UMC – Henderson Project
  • Mendota: Zion UMC – Vacation Bible School and Sweet Corn Festival Outreach
  • Mt. Morris UMC – Community Vacation Bible School
  • Norway UMC – After the Bell Connections
  • Oregon UMC – Feed the Families Program
  • Red Oak – Building Project
  • Tampico UMC – Vacation Bible School
  • Walnut: Red Oak – Children and Community Outreach 
  • Warren UMC – Community Meal
  • Waterman – Fun Day for All Kids, Christmas Dinner, and Ice Cream Social
  • Wauconda UMC – Acts of Kindness Ministry
  • Wyanet UMC – Boy Scouts of America


Applications for 2020 grants will be accepted after the first of the year and due March 15. Find the forms at www.umcnic.org/congregationalgrants.

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