Plant a Garden—Grow a Church

By Robin Boda

Stephen and Robin Boda offer various services to the public through Bridge of Hope Community Church, an Alliance church plant in urban St. Louis, Missouri. The church’s community garden opened doors for believers to share the gospel with their neighbors.

Growers select new plants for the community garden.

“I can’t believe I’m eating stuff off of the ground!” says Quita, a Bridge of Hope neighbor who grows her food in our community garden.

But Quita and her neighbors are learning about more than just gardening; the work stimulates spiritual conversations.

Discipleship takes place regularly among the garden’s 30 raised beds. Participating believers use gardening principles to teach life lessons to unchurched growers. As we weed a bed, we might talk about how “weeds” in our lives choke our spiritual growth or how some are so entwined with good plants that it can be difficult to separate the vines of truth from the weeds. The garden imagery leads to spiritual understanding, arousing an interest to learn more about the true Vine.

Paying It Forward

Church members, like Jarmell, share their harvest with those in need. Jarmell was homeless when he became a believer and was baptized at Bridge of Hope. Today, he is an avid gardener who grows his own food and gives some of his produce to others as he tells them what Christ has done for him.

Laquita, a Bridge of Hope member who planted a garden next door to her house, eagerly shares Christ with her neighbors and friends as she feeds them from her generous yield. Now, her friend KeKe attends church because of Laquita’s concern for her body and soul.

A Garden Grows

The garden also gives us the opportunity to partner with other urban organizations that provide job training for neighborhood youth. Our bee hives provide honey for a local group that employs youth to make lip balms and lotions, and at the Sweet Potato Project, gluten-free, sugarless cookies are produced for children from the tubers.

A chicken coop will add another valuable component to the garden. Ms. Cora, who lives next door to the church, brainstormed with Stephen to build a coop that will open from her yard into the garden. “I can’t wait to have my friends over for a cup of tea and watch the chickens run around,” she says. “Won’t it be wonderful?”

Also, plans are under way to build a stage with a canvas screen between the flower beds, where we hope to host community events. And in September, work will begin on our rainwater capture system and rain gardens, funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Sewer District and installed by environmental engineers.

As we seek to promote physical and spiritual wholeness for those we serve, it’s exciting to see God draw people together through this sustainable outreach that opens doors to verbal proclamation of the gospel.

Want to grow a church?  Plant a garden, and see the people God brings your way!


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