Ministry Brings Love to the Table
A ministry called The Open Table was introduced to the diocese recently during a presentation to about 60 clergy, lay leaders, and social service professionals at Church of the Incarnation. The ministry, which was born out of a Methodist Church, is about helping people who are in some sort of transition by providing them with small group support and accountability. The person being helped is considered the CEO who creates a plan for their life and the team members serve as a board of directors, said Jon Katov, founder.
Examples of Open Table experiences have included someone who worked toward getting employment and housing. Another needed help getting a drivers license and purchasing a car. Other have helped youth transitioning from foster care to independent living, while others focused on prisoners exiting the system and are trying to get their footing back in the real world. Each person accepted into the program receives a team of six to 12 volunteers who commit for at least one year in bringing life experiences and social connections to help the individual grow and reach their goals, which then leads to a transforming experience for all involved.
“This is a long term mission trip where you sleep in your own bed,” Katov said. “You work with the individual to build trust, develop a life plan and they tell you want they would like to accomplish in the next year. You have to slow down and develop the relationship otherwise they feel like a project not a person. This is about developing community.”
One beneficiary of the program spoke to the group saying he was able to get back on his feet after hitting a financial and emotional rough patch because having “a group of people around you from a place of love was valuable.” Another woman who participated in the program when she began struggling after a divorce, gained employment at a medical center gift shop where she takes pride and joy in her vocation. Tears welled in her eyes and her voice cracked as she warned the group “not to judge a book by it’s cover, because it’s what inside that counts.”
Leaders from churches who have participated in the program said the results are transformative for the person being served and the volunteer team. “When you give money to people, they keep coming back, so I was looking for something with more lasting benefits,” said Jim Barr, a deacon at High Pointe Church of Christ in McKinney. “We like the program and are on our fifth table. We have learned it’s about relationships. People are not going to trust you until they know who you are what you are about. That’s when God opens doors.”
Kristen Ortega, who attends Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, said the program is good way to advocate and be a voice for the voiceless for those who come from generational poverty or a have had a crisis in their life. After her church prayed about how to best use an Open Table ministry, they selected a single mother in their congregation who was from Rwanda and worked two jobs. “She didn’t ask for help but she needed it,” Ortega said. “And by the end, we felt like she schooled us on faith.”
Many of the attendees were energized from the presentation and began networking and tossing around ideas on how to get a program off the ground at their church. Some brainstormed on ways to form an ecumenical table of volunteers that would offer diversity in race, gender and age.
The presentation, which was spearheaded by Stephanie Hodgkins, included statistics on successes and costs of the program, which are $500 for each table to pay for materials and resources. For those interested in getting more information contact Hodgkins at and review the ministry’s website at www.theopentable.org.