In December of 2016, Jim Plemmons along with a couple of FBC staff members took a field trip to Central Baptist Church of Fountain City. There had been some discussion about a community outreach ministry that the church had been doing for a number of years and these FBC folks wanted to see it in action and know more about it. FBC Fountain City held a Christmas store each December where parents could come and shop for Christmas toys and items for their children. It was truly amazing to watch how God worked in the lives of those families that day and the joy that they experienced. The group left that day feeling that this was something God was leading us to do.
On December 5, 2017, First Baptist Knoxville opened it’s doors to the first Christmas Shop! That year, we served 12 families, totaling 37 children, all from South Knox Elementary School. To make this Christmas Shop our own ministry, we added some new elements to enrich the program. It was agreed that we wanted this experience to be more than just the parents receiving a bag of toys and sent on their way. True relational ministry was strongly desired to provide an opportunity to spend time getting to know the participants and so that First Baptist could form a deeper relationship with each family by talking and praying with them.
We wanted each family to feel they had a part in the Christmas Shop and to take ownership of this. Therefore, the idea of each participant serving six hours in various community projects around the school and community became part of the requirement to be able to come and shop. FBC members were assigned to a team such a shopping, escorts, greeters, hygiene kits, Bible distribution, and age-appropriate toy distribution.
At the end of the day, our volunteers felt like God had truly blessed our efforts and many signed up again for the next year! The joy on each face and the true appreciation of what we had given each participant not only in material things but in hugs, prayer, and true hospitality were evident. One dear lady could not believe that this “was all for her?” She and her grandsons are now part of our FBC family.
The year 2018 brought 30 families, totaling 88 children, expanding to our FBC Food Co-op and Safe Families. Our goal for 2019 is yet to be determined but will go well beyond that! The date is Tuesday, December 3, beginning at 8 am. We will also offer breakfast on Saturday, November 9, for all of the participating families. We will need volunteers to help cook, serve, visit with families, and clean-up.