In the footprint of time, little Elm Grove Church has served the Lord in myriad ways through the hands and hearts, mouths and minds of its disciples.
They’re focused on making more disciples for the transformation of the world—starting in Christian County. Back in 1893 when game trails predated roads, Elm Grove Church was a gathering place in the wilderness of eastern Christian County. In the 20th century, it ministered to the farm families of a still rural landscape. Today, the white-framed church serves rural and suburban commuters to Springfield.
Sunday mornings, teens and adults blend in one Sunday School class, women in another, and men and women together in a third. At 11, worshipers sing the old songs of Methodism from hymnals as ceiling fans circulate above them. Volunteers fill the choir pews. Prayer requests and blessings take more than a few minutes.
Elm Grove likes to eat. Sometimes members gather for breakfast, and once a month, they linger after Sunday service for a potluck. They return most Sunday nights to worship and again on Wednesday for another potluck and Bible study. Once a month, an old-fashioned singalong follows the potluck. Another potluck fundraiser serves veterans and donates to Disabled Veterans of America. Mexican dinner fundraisers raise money for other causes. An annual Sweetheart Dinner, prepared by the men, honors the women of their lives.
Food is secondary, of course, to the fellowship and family it nurtures. The church’s motto, “A Place to Worship, a Place to Grow in His Grace, a Place to be Loved and a Place to Call Home,” on T-shirts and sweatshirts invites the unchurched to break bread with the Elm Grove family. In fact, the core, long-time members are related and descended from the founders.
Elm Grove is a busy family.
For Easter, members pack plastic Easter eggs with coins and candy for a community Easter egg hunt. Neighborhood children and school friends scramble across the lawn in search of the brightly colored eggs.
During the year, members pick up trash along a threemile, poison-ivy-infested section of U Highway. Its food pantry feeds the hungry, financed in part by Best Choice labels. When fires and tornadoes destroy homes, Elm Grove is there no matter if the afflicted are friends or strangers.
In July, vacation Bible school attracts 20 to 30 children. Most years, several accept the Lord. Weather permitting, the newly saved are dunked in the cold waters of the nearby Finley River.
In October, the Lord’s Acre Sale attracts scores of neighbors and former members. It’s a festive morning as buyers meet old friends; bid in the live auction on handcrafted, grown, baked and harvested items; and buy homemade chili and pie for lunch.
Activities ramp up in November as members pack more than 50 shoeboxes for the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Ministry. Sunday School offerings throughout the year pay for shopping trips to fill the boxes. Members also load up Thanksgiving baskets for a dozen hungry families.
Advent is marked by caroling parties, gift Poinsettias for the home- and nursing home-bound, bell ringing for the Salvation Army, and gifts and food for adopted families. A Christmas program, starring the church’s youth, brings in extended family to fill the pews.
Served by licensed pastor Todd Staples for the past 25 years, Elm Grove enters a new chapter in June when he retires. “Two of the most important things about the folks at Elm Grove are that they love the Lord and love one another. That love is what inspires them to serve God in the community and beyond. That won’t change,” he said.
Elm Grove will plant an elm tree on the property April 29 and dedicate it Sunday, May 20 in celebration of their 125th year of ministry. On May 20 they will have a welcome at 10 a.m. and worship at 11 a.m., with Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke preaching and special music. At 12:30, they will have a catered lunch, supplemented with homemade pies from members.