Bryan Howard grew up in a home led by a single mom so he is well aware of the struggles and issues they face.
That’s why he has always wanted to be involved in a ministry geared toward single mothers and widows, but until recently he had never found the opportunity.
That changed earlier this year when Howard, worship pastor at Round Lick Baptist Church, Watertown, attended a meeting hosted by Wilson County Baptist Association that focused on community outreach. That sparked the recall of an article he had read previously about a church that provided free oil changes for single mothers. “God gave me the vision for this ministry 20 years ago,” he affirmed.
Howard noted that single mom families “are a growing segment of our population. Some have never married or have been abandoned by their husbands; while others are widowed.
“Single mom families are in our churches and our communities,” he continued, noting that after they provide food, shelter and utilities for their family, there is not much left for other necessities such as car maintenance or repair.
Pledge of support
“We can help change this by assisting with their vehicle’s maintenance and freeing up the monies spent on routine maintenance to be used for food, shelter, medicine, utilities and other basic necessities,” Howard said.
Howard presented his vision to the members at Round Lick Baptist who agreed it was a ministry that was needed and they pledged their support.
Because the church did not have an appropriate place for such a ministry, Howard began exploring options. He knew the old city hall building in Watertown was vacant and it had an adjoining space that used to house the city fire truck. Howard began contacting city officials and in a short time, legal matters were worked out and the city gave the church permission to use the property for the oil change ministry.
Howard also began contacting local businesses for support and even checked with three businesses in the area that did oil changes and explained the intent of their twice a month ministry. The businesses were supportive, Howard said.
He noted that his goal was not to use church funds. “We raised funds from local businesses and individuals,” he said. “God has blessed. Right now, we have enough funds to continue the ministry twice a month for the remainder of this year and next.”
In three months, God took the vision from an idea to reality, Howard said. “We firmly believe this ministry is something God has ordained.”
Pearl Hicks, a member of the church’s Women on Ministry and the prayer team, participates in the ministry and, like Howard, she knows the needs of single mothers.
“I was a single mom for seven years,” she said. “This is a ministry that will reach single moms and meet needs,” she affirmed, adding that the ministry is needed in the community.
While a team changes the oil and attends to other routine maintenance such as checking fluid levels, tire pressure and more, the mothers are greeted by another team that talks with the moms while they wait. Local businesses within walking distance have provided free gifts for the women. For instance, a local coffee shop will provide a free coffee to moms who visit the shop.
Sometimes, Hicks or another volunteer will go with the women and just have fellowship while they enjoy their free gift. Hicks said they don’t try to force the gospel on anyone.
“We try to build relationships. We want them to come back.”
But, if they are asked, the volunteers are more than willing and are ready to share a testimony and even present the gospel. “If the person is open, I run with it,” Hicks said.
In just a few months, the ministry has been expanded to include any single mom in Wilson County. The church is trying to find ways to make the county aware of the ministry, Howard said. Unless there is a conflict with the city of Watertown, the ministry is provided on the first and third Saturday of each month.
Howard hopes that as more women learn of the ministry, the day’s schedule will be filled each week. Women are asked to go online to make an appointment, he noted. Appointments are necessary because every car is different.
‘Meeting real, practical needs’
Howard orders the appropriate amount and type of oil and supplies for each car that is scheduled. Women who have taken part in the ministry thus far will automatically receive a reminder of when their next oil change is needed.
“When I first heard about this ministry from the church’s WMU/Missions leader, Julie Howard, it struck me as a great example of community impact for several reasons,” said Kim Cruse, missions development specialist for Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union.
“First, because it meets a real, practical need of single moms who often struggle to make ends meet but also have a hard time deciphering when a mechanic is telling the truth about needed repairs or just trying to get more money.
“Second, because it engages the whole church and offers a variety of participation — a few men and teens doing the oil changes while other men, women, seniors, children and teens visit with the ladies, provide snacks, and connect through conversations that will hopefully lead to spiritual discussions.”
Cruse added that by inviting local businesses to be involved, “it spreads kindness and is a strong witness to the community of what it looks like to ‘preach the gospel always and when possible, use words.’”
For more information on the ministry or to make an appointment for an oil change, single moms are encouraged to visit roundlickbaptist.org and to click on the “Free Oil Changes for Single Moms” tab.