Spread The Word is a summer internship with the intent of exposing college-age men to church planting and evangelism. Based out of Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, the internship was started by Dave Doran Sr. and Aaron Coffey in 2013 with three goals in mind: spreading the gospel in downriver Detroit, helping with outreach efforts in metro Detroit churches, and getting young men involved in evangelism and exposure ministry in Detroit.
"We want to expose these guys to the needs and culture of Detroit, train them and engage them in the work of church planting," Coffey said. "So many people want [church planting] just to be a 9-5 job, but that's not what Jesus called us to do. He's called us to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him, and that's what we want to expose these guys to." The internship runs from the end of May to the first week of August. During this time, about 10 interns become involved in a wide variety of ministry and evangelism opportunities. Interns come from colleges and states across the country and aren't required to be Bible majors.
Highlights of the summer include ministry at the Faith Recovery Center, local coffee shops, and evangelism and worldview quizzes with the students at Wayne State University. "At the recovery center, we're meeting real people with real needs that we can minister to with a real solution: Jesus," said Phil Cecil, a senior Bible student at Appalachian Bible College who has interned this summer and last summer at Spread the Word. "At Wayne State, we're setting up tables with iPads that let students find out what their worldview is, and they're realizing what questions that leaves them with. It's awesome."
In addition, the interns hold two regular community events with rotating churches each week. Before these events, the interns canvas approximately 400-600 homes each week, depending on the size of the community. The first event, called Cola Wars, is a two-day, high-action competition aimed to reach out to the youth in the community. The event divides the youth into two teams: Pepsi and Coke. Once on these teams, the interns facilitate different games between the two teams. At the end of the first night, the interns give a short gospel message to the kids and encourage them to invite their friends to the second night. After the second night, the interns give another message followed by pizza.
The second event is a free community cookout hosted by various Detroit-area churches to allow the church staff to form connections with the people who live in the church's area. The interns man different stations during the night, such as a blow-up bounce slide, popcorn, snow cone and cotton candy machines, and a hot dog grill.
Since the interns provide the manpower to run the cookout, it allows the pastor of the church to form one-on-one relationships and raise awareness of the church. During the cookouts, people who attend can also fill out information cards, which indicate if they have any prayer requests or desire to connect with the pastor, to enter a drawing for one of multiple gift cards given out during the night. Through these cookouts last summer, Dave Doran Jr. was able to build a foundation for his church plant, Resurrection Church. Resurrection Church was planted in May 2015 by Doran in Lincoln Park because of his conviction to become involved in missions in his own backyard. "[Spread The Word] was a catalyst for Resurrection Church," Doran said. "It's like the charge at the base of a space shuttle that gets it going in the beginning." Coffey said that the cookouts helped Doran to build a contact base and gain traction for the church plant through the database of names collected.
The internship allowed them to learn the right tools so that they could see themselves in Doran's shoes as a church planter and see the church planting process from the beginning. "Helping [Doran] has been good just to see what a real church planter is like in everything he does," Cecil said. "Just seeing his love for people has been impacting." They were also able to see Doran's interactions with the Lincoln Park community through the nine cookouts held over a 10-week period. Doran said that his main goal during these cookouts was to hold at least two 15-minute conversations with someone new.
"He's energetic and very engaged with them and never distracted," said Josiah Long, a junior business administration major at Bob Jones University who interned in Summer 2015. "[Doran] is consumed with the gospel, but still knows how to be a person. He works hard to make those connections He's focused on the community to make a change inward out. "From the awareness levels raised at the cookouts, the church's attendance at services and gospel communities, small groups led by church members. "Gospel communities push people in the church to be in each other's homes and lives," Cecil said. "It's cool to see a church act like a church through something even so small as a family meal."
One year later, this year's interns still work with Doran, both as partners in church planting and as a mentor. Doran and Coffey regularly hold multiple studies with the interns to help them grow in both their personal spiritual lives and their knowledge for evangelism. "They're giving us the tools we need to go back to our hometowns and apply these things to many different areas," Long said. "We're challenged to erase all prejudices and create disciples." Each summer of interns is never the same, and Coffey said that the program is unlike any other program. "It's constantly improving, and we're constantly looking for new ideas," Coffey said. "I want to throw them into every vein, every setting that I can. I want to give them exposure to things that will take them out of their comfort zone and to walk away saying 'I hate leaving.'"
For all of the guys who have interned, their message to others is one and the same: get immersed in the urban, diverse setting of Detroit and spread the Word.
For more information and photos, check out the Spread The Word 2016 Facebook page.