In the bible, God created animals before he created people and when Our Lord and Savior Jesus was born it was in a stable with animals. Animals in the bible go on to be associated with The Holy Trinity with God sometimes referred to as the great “lion” of Judah, Jesus Christ as the “lamb” of God, and the Holy Spirit as a “dove” that descended from heaven. With these mentions of animals as well as in others biblical passages that connect animals to people and faith, I deeply believe that this is a reflection of God’s own love of animals and his want for us to take care of them. When Grace Lutheran Church in Des Moines decided to take part in expressing God’s love of animals through an animal ministries program it began with a simple step.
Starting simple, the first move involved an animal charity that partners with organizations the church already supports. Pet Project of the Midwest collects food for the pets of people in need and works with the Des Moines Area Religious Council that runs a local food pantry that Grace Lutheran Church donates to. A spokesperson from The Pet Project of the Midwest came and talked at adult forum. In addition to receiving food
and pet supplies, the congregation learned that The Pet Project has a network to find lost pets and they deliver AniMEALS to the pets of Meals on Wheels recipients.
The next step Grace Lutheran Church took was more like a leap of faith, right into the deep end. The entire month of January 2013 was used to introduce the congregation to the concept of animal ministries. A pet food and supplies drive, using the church bulletin board and newsletter to inform people about animal ministries, teaching children about the needs of animals in Sunday School, encouraging people to share animal ministries with people outside of the church community, and hosting a multi-generational event to support animal ministries were all a part of how the church decided to share in the expression of God’s love of animals.
Of all the ways Grace Lutheran Church raised awareness for animal ministries, the multi-generational event was the culmination of all the efforts put into the new ministry. For the event itself, we needed to plan for all interest levels, all attention spans, and all skill levels. We planned that some would simply want to come to event to watch others partake in the activities. Most would actively participate in the multiple animal activities planned. Still others, such as younger kids with short attention spans would, need a variety of things to do or they will be bored.
Therefore, we had several opportunities for all to join. There were stations set up for people to make cat toys, pinecone bird feeders, food puzzle toys for pets as well as tables set up for people to simply sit at to color or have a snack and read about ways to be kind to animals and animal verses in the bible. In addition to the stations, there were three animal related carnival type games, a Noah’s ark jig-saw puzzle, and a small petting zoo for younger kids. Each activity table, game and animal, had a monitor to help people know what to do and to help them if they had questions. A PowerPoint presentation ran throughout the event with bible verses and photos of animals to help make the connection for people to know that they are doing God’s work, helping animals, and to know what to do at each station.
For a new church ministry event, it went even better than expected. Everyone came in and happily joined in any and all animal ministries activities. Every table was active even before the presentation and explanation. It was wonderful to see young, old, people of all backgrounds happily going about their works of kindness together. It was an event that had everyone on equal and common ground. Everyone had pet stories and were talking about them to others who enjoyed their stories and contributed their own. Hundreds of toys and pet supplies for homeless animals as well as for pets of people in need were made or donated.
Since Grace Lutheran Church’s animal ministries introduction, the social ministries committee and education committee at church are keeping the ministry alive and well . The pet toy making crafts work well for “Circle of Friends” as an activity older adults with memory loss. The church is also in the process of learning who in the congregation already donates, volunteers, or are interested in animal welfare charities. They are being sought out as possible helpers who would take monthly pet food donations to the shelter or who would help at future animal ministries events. We are also keeping animal ministries alive by listing what people can donate to a shelter any time of year and having a donation box at the church. Sporadically, the social ministries committee will host a more in depth animal welfare craft project such as making suet balls for wild birds, spool knitting for enjoyment and cat toys, zoo visits, and more. The education committee is planning to use some pet ministry lessons and crafts for the Daily Vacation Bible study this summer, for confirmation class and high school lock in service projects.
With all the continuation of animal ministries at Grace Lutheran Church, we will continue to share and express God’s love of animals. Glory be to God!
Article written by Sandra Briggs, member of Grace Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA