Somewhere around 40% of Americans have tattoos.
In spite of the popularity of tattoos, when the people of Wildwood United Methodist Church began reaching out to people at a tattoo parlor, Pastor Michael Beck says they found a population that was “so disconnected” from the Christian faith.
Yet, the people who came to the parlor were “deeply spiritual,” he says.
Tattoo Parlor Church started as a small group and steadily grew.
“We had our person of peace,” he says of the group’s facilitator. The services included communion. There are those who might question having services in a business like this, but Beck describes the services as “faith based.”
“We’ve had a lot of people come to faith through that,” he says.
He adds that being at the tattoo parlor reached a lot of people who would otherwise “not ever go to church.” Because of COVID-19, the ministry is now “on pause,” set to resume at the appropriate time.
Michael Beck is co-pastor of Wildwood and also of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Ocala, along with his wife, Jill Beck. He also holds the more elaborate title of Cultivator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Fresh Expressions is a broad spectrum ecumenical Christian effort, particularly embraced by United Methodists, to reach people outside the church building walls and in non-traditional ways. In spite of his title, Beck is the first to tell you this is not a top-down effort.
“It’s a grassroots movement,” he says.
Tattoo Parlor Church is just one of many types of outreach at churches pastored by the Becks.
Another is something simple: Supper Table Church.
“We have a need here, what do we do?” Beck says they asked of themselves. They turned to the multiple times in the Gospels where Jesus ate with people. Parents in quarantine now found themselves being first-time home school teachers. They felt isolated and overwhelmed. So, they made themed meals, propped up a screen at an empty chair at the table, and connected through Zoom as they ate, prayed, and shared a “Jesus story.”
Additionally, Beck used other digital platforms to offer “virtual home visits and “meet and greets.”
Before Supper Table Church, there has been another way to gather, eat, and worship. Prior to covid-19, Bibles and Burritos was held at a Moe’s Southwest Grill location, a full worship experience around burritos and all-you-can-eat chips and salsa.
Then, there is also Yoga Church, which started with Karen Hughes and Michael Beck in a physical location with 20 attendees.
“We’re going to stream this free, live, into people’s homes” he says of the decision to launch Yoga Church Digital when COVID-19 struck. “That one’s grown by hundreds of people.”
They have also planted a church in a dog park. With the open air meaning there’s “less passability” of the virus, they have had as many as 80 people and their canine companions.
The dog park ministry is known as Paws of Praise.
“The church has become inaccessible to the vast majority of people” Beck says, “The only way it will become accessible is to form church right in the spaces, rhythms, and practices where people already do life. Church can form in a every nook and cranny of communities, both digital and analog” Beck says, listing locations like the dog park, playgrounds, tattoo parlors and Zoom rooms.
Beck encourages all churches to make these efforts.
“Anybody can do this,” he says. The results will be “fruitful to the kingdom.”