If you’ve ever had a bold idea, it may have been followed immediately by doubts, or at least wondering if this could really work. Rev. Jesse Kueker experienced this firsthand when he realized he could envision a barbecue-based ministry in his congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, MO.
Back at his installation and ordination in 2015, the congregation served barbecue by Brent Viebrock. Viebrock’s barbecue had gained a bit of a following and was always served at large gatherings for the congregation. Many people had been asking Viebrock why he didn’t cook for a living.
Meanwhile, the congregation had recently started Plus One, a process of the Missouri District that encourages congregations to take one new step into the community, and he thought there was a winning recipe in using the culinary skills of one member of his congregation. Now in its third year, the TLC Smokehouse food truck was born.
The truck serves Viebrock’s coveted barbecue and has brought the congregation in contact with different community members. Ten percent of the proceeds go to one of three community causes, selected by the congregation at the start of the year.
Because all of the tips also go to the causes, people often leave five dollar tips for ten dollar lunches. The supported causes supply volunteers to help run the food truck, which increases the reach of the church. Rev. Kueker recalls working alongside the Superintendent of the local school district recently.
With the food, people receive cards with the common table prayer and encouragement to go to the church of their choice, alongside a specific invitation to attend services at Trinity. Rev. Kueker says they want to talk about their reason for offering this service, but not to overload people with it.
In the past year, TLC Smokehouse became the vendor of choice for Heritage Days in Warsaw, MO, a festival celebrating pioneer times. This meant donning historic costumes and cooking the famed barbeque without any electricity. They met many more people in the community and brought in thousands of dollars for their ministry and supported causes.
Trinity Lutheran Church already has several vibrant ministries. They’re especially known for their maternity homes, which offer food, shelter and counseling to homeless pregnant young women. Rev. Kueker also leads bible studies there, which recently had five new moms and five babies in attendance. With four properties, this ministry has grown the past few years.
Rev. Kueker believes the Plus One process can benefit congregations like theirs, who already have many active ministries. He says, “There’s always untapped potential and talents in the church.” He recalls, “When I told Brent we could use barbecue to share the Gospel, his eyes lit up. How many people won’t go to church? But those people will go to a food truck and get a plate of brisket, and that’s a chance for us to plant a seed there. Having the encouragement of our Plus One coach, and the prayers and encouragement of the Missouri District helped decide to take this step.”
Plus One helps congregations survey their membership and discover opportunities in the hearts and talents of their members. While the maternity home is a phenomenal ministry, taking on a new project with the barbecue truck is building new relationships and allowing Viebrock to serve in a whole new way. He says, “It’s a matter of visiting people and finding out what they’re passionate about. He had the talent and the heart, but no one had encouraged him to go out and do it and that’s where the church can be really effective.”
The Plus One process is specifically designed to help congregations take advantage of the people ready and willing to serve in their ranks. Coaches are available for guidance, resources, encouragement and prayer, but it really is the congregations that take the lead. Rev. Kueker says, “If I could sum up the District’s efforts in one word, it would be this: encouragement. They have encouraged us, prayed for us, and spoke with us about this project, and their efforts have encouraged the saints here at Trinity to continue to meet our community in new ways.”
In addition to reaching the untapped potential in a congregation and offering an encouraging coach, the Plus One process can help congregations:
- Raise up and resource volunteers
- Refine and align communications
- Identify ways to be intentional about forming personal relationships in community events
- Equip social ministries with opportunities to share the Gospel
- Connect members with tangible ways to be “inviters”
If you’d like to learn more about the Plus One process, please contact Rev. Bill Geis at firstname.lastname@example.org or (314) 590-6205.
Readers can encourage others to be bold witnesses by supporting the Missouri District financially.