ELM Ministry Grant Update: Open Doors in Sparks, Nevada

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Paul Gibson

One of the six ministry grant programs Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is supporting this year is the “Open Doors” ministry at Lord of Mercy Lutheran Church in Sparks, Nevada.

The idea for the ministry was born when two members of the congregation, Sandy Poirier and Sharon Lemons, met with intern pastor and Proclaim member, Paul Gibson (left), to discuss ways of expanding the RIC congregation’s outreach to the LGBTQ community. They recognized the scarcity of community resources in the cities of Reno and Sparks, as well as the need for teenagers and people in their twenties to have “an alternative to the bars.”

Open Doors 01

“Open Doors” is described as a safe gathering-place for LGBTQ young people and their friends. At present, it meets at the church every Friday evening from 7pm to 10pm; the intention is to expand to other days of the week. Each week, anywhere from 12 to 20 young people gather for something like a movie, board games, karaoke, or a spaghetti cook-off, and for lots of conversation and general silliness. The hope as the program grows is to also provide mentoring, tutoring, and opportunities for community service.

The group has been meeting since January and a sense of community and of mutual responsibility is growing. Participants trust one another enough to talk about a problem like cutting or a suicide attempt. Everyone benefits from hearing the advice and life experience of others.

Many people were hesitant to join the group at first; they simply couldn’t believe that a church was offering this service with “no strings attached.” They also suspected that they’d be threatened with hellfire and damnation once they were lured inside the doors. Word of mouth has helped to allay these suspicions and the group has grown steadily over the past few months.

Open Doors 02

“Open Doors” is funded by a ministry grant from ELM. Initial grant monies were used to advertise the group and to purchase food and drink for the Friday gatherings. In the next phase of the group’s development, the plan is to use grant money for the purchase of sports equipment, a sound system, a karaoke machine, and a gaming system: things that will make “Open Doors” an enjoyable place for people to hang out and create community with one another.

For more on ELM’s Ministry Grants program: