Church Outreach Teaches Local Women Valuable Cooking Skills

By Brett Hetherington*

Eating healthy and providing a meal large enough for a family can be a difficult task. This is even more difficult if no one has ever shared with you how to cook. Seeing this need, women from Christ United Methodist Church (Tuscarawas District) in Alliance decided to do something to change this. They host a special ministry twice a year to help women in the community learn how to cook for their families and give them healthy options to prepare.

Cooking for the Soul is a ministry run by the church’s chapter of United Methodist Women (UMW), who formed a new women’s circle – The Susie Buckel Circle – in 2013. The nine women in the new circle started Cooking for the Soul in 2014 as an outreach to help women with children learn cooking skills, and to grow in confidence in their home. The women who run Cooking for the Soul also want to make the evenings they spend together enjoyable for everyone involved so mothers are invited to bring their children with them. During the women’s cooking time the children have their own activities, even learning how to make a simple dessert that they can share with each other at the end of the evening.

The once-a-week classes meet for three consecutive weeks. Crock-pot cooking is the focus of the fall class sessions while spring teaches casserole dishes. Classes each week accommodate up to 15 women (and their children) and they end with participating mothers taking home a small gift. These can be small items such as kitchen scissors or an apple corer, but those who complete all three classes are given the tools they need to complete that season’s focus: a casserole dish in the spring and a crock-pot in the fall.

“We advertise our ministry to local women in our community who really could benefit from this opportunity. Cooking for the Soul is completely free to those who participate. We even see some participants come back and join in the life of the church as a direct result of their time in these three nights together,” said Jamie Greiner, who oversees Cooking for the Soul.

The ministry serves to build a community among the instructors, the mothers who participate and their children.

Greiner said, “After dinner, the children head to their activities, and the women who are learning how to cook get to have a teaching moment. These can be on helpful tips in the kitchen, which herbs can add to a dish, or something else. This segment is brief, as we do not want to overload the women with information.”

The efforts of Greiner and her team are not lost on those who have taken part in Cooking for the Soul. Here are just a few of the comments that participants have written on comment cards at the end of each session:

  • “The classes were very helpful in learning a healthier way of cooking and to try new recipes for my family.”
  • “Coming to these classes gave me hope, these classes made my days.”
  • “I liked learning about how to eat healthier and make better choices for my son and I.”
  • “This was a wonderful experience that my girls and I enjoyed very much.”
  • “I loved these classes! I can’t wait until the next series of classes.”

Christ UMC wants to encourage other communities to take up a ministry like this. On October 5, Greiner and others who are involved in Cooking for the Soul are opening the church to other UMW chapters across the Tuscarawas District to learn about the ministry, and how they might take it home to their respective congregations.

If you have a story of how God is using your local church to transform the community, please contact us at The East Ohio Conference Communications team wants to tell your story.

*Brett Hetherington is the Communications specialist for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.