It began with a simple post on Facebook and a mention in the church’s bulletin. Going beyond the doors of the church it took to the streets and the Des Moines area. Now, in numbers and interest, the group is growing. It is the new ministry group at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA and you may want to bring a helmet.
The St. John’s Bicycle Ministry Group first began when St John’s member, Rod Snavely, an avid biker, knew of a few people at church who shared his bicycle enthusiasm and wished to know if there were more to perhaps share in a ride or two for fun. With a post on the church’s Facebook and a mention in the church bulletin, Snavely welcomed 14 people to the first St. John’s bike ride last summer.
What began as a fun get-together for bicyclists in the congregation grew into a ministry in many ways. First, more rides were held including themed rides such as the “Sunday Brunch” ride of biking to St John’s for worship and then to a local restaurant afterwards as well as a November “Cranksgiving” ride to buy and collect food for the local food bank. In fact, seventy pounds of food was collected for the Des Moines Area Food Bank.
Another way the bicycle group has grown into a ministry is that it is a physical activity. “We wanted to have an activity group in church that would go out and do something” noted Snavely when speaking on how the group takes on bike rides of varying lengths and located at different points of interest in the community in order to welcome people of fitness levels to join in. This exercise and community exploration appeal has engaged people who normally would not join a traditional bible study or church. Having a ministry that involves physical activity is also part of carrying out the ELCA’s Live Well* initiative of encouraging people to make positive lifestyle changes to promote healthy living since one’s health can impact the people and organizations around us, especially one’s church life.
Though the variety of rides and engaging physical activity may have helped this ministry grow, one of the biggest draws that gets people geared up for St. John’s Bicycle Ministry is the way it brings people together. Family, friends, fellow congregation members who attend different worship times, and even people from outside the congregation have joined the bicycle group. Making connections and building relationships with others is a vital part of the ministry as Snavely noted that he “ never knew a couple at church until they joined us for a ride. They had never attended a church social event.” The St. John’s Bicycle Ministry has expanded by bringing people together through its own Facebook page** where they share their experiences with others through posts and pictures of their rides.
What start started out as a simple post on Facebook and a mention in the church bulletin has grown into a full-fledged ministry of St. John’s Lutheran Church. So ready your helmet and ride your way towards joining or creating your own bicycle ministry group at your congregation!
* To learn more about ELCA Live Well click here https://www.elcabop.org/Home/LiveWell/WhyLiveWell.aspx
**St. John’s Bicycle Ministry Group Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BicycleStJohns
Article written by Janelle Bidne, Coordinator of Communications
with assistance from Rod Snavely, congregation member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, IA