Church employs tasty strategy to raise money

What started out as a church fundraiser has evolved into a local business, but its primary goal is still to raise funds for the church. If you drive past New Season Church, you will see a small structure in the corner of their parking lot labeled "Adam's Rib." The name should ring a bell with Church goers, taken from Genesis and the biblical story of God taking a rib from Adam to make Eve. But the walk-up restaurant serves a different kind of rib, smoked and covered in barbecue sauce. The venture started as a fundraiser last year when Pastor Darryl Ballew and church members set up out front and sold ribs and Boston butts to hungry race fans on their way to Talladega. After the initial success, they held the fundraiser again on Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day. They sold hams and turkeys around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and started the same series of fundraisers again this year. New Season's positive experience selling the cooked meats and their continual need to raise funds lead them to start thinking about opening a walk-up restaurant to sell food year-round. With approval from the church board, they started the process to take care of all the paperwork necessary to start a restaurant. They had to rezone the property as commercial and learn a whole new way of doing business. The stand opened in July 2009. Adam's Rib is a separate entity owned by the church, run in the same way as any other local restaurant, with all the profits going back into the church. "They are totally separate. They operate two totally different ways," Ballew said. One reason Ballew wanted to raise funds was to hire a youth pastor. After posting an ad, he found Philip Larsen. For a while Larsen had a full-time job, and worked part-time as the youth pastor. Once he found out Adam's Rib was starting up he decided to work for the church in a second capacity, and is now the manager of the restaurant. One of the first things they bought with the profits was a flat screen TV for the youth to use. Ballew says the amount of youth has doubled since Larsen started. The restaurant's profits go back into the church, but that's not the only way the church benefits from the venture. The three employees at Adam's Rib are church members who previously did not have jobs. "It's also a ministry opportunity. Everything we do needs to revolve around ministry," Ballew said. Customers get service with a smile, and on occasion with a prayer; the employees have prayed with customers who had prayer requests or lent an ear to those who needed one. The cooked meats fundraiser idea has spread. Ballew has talked to several other churches seeking information about how to have such a fundraiser. New Season has also cooked meats for events at other churches, such as their sister church, Life Church, in Rainbow City. "It's about trying to be a neighbor," he said. The restaurant itself was built upon the reputation they established selling the meats as fundraisers. Based on requests, they have learned what their customer base is looking for. They started selling meat in bulk; now they have sandwiches, plates and sides. They make their own barbecue sauce and their specialties are ribs and loaded barbecue potatoes. Adam's Rib has catered food for larger events, even rehearsal dinners, and deliver in the Southside area. They have a game day special where a slab of ribs is $20, $5 off the normal price. There's even a flat screen outside where you can catch the game. "We mostly watch Alabama, but we will watch Auburn," Ballew said, showing his football loyalty. New Season's congregation ebbs and flows, but average about 60-70 members. "We're a small church. We don't have a lot of resources," Ballew said."We have to be creative." The church members contribute in various ways. After buying the building, they did all the work on the inside themselves. One of the members takes care of the books. Others bake desserts to sell on the weekends. "God's blessed it ever since we started doing it," Ballew said. "We don't know what will happen out there. We're taking it day by day." There are plans to enclose the front before winter to keep customers out of the cold. One day Ballew would like to see a full sit-down restaurant. But Ballew added, "We don't ever want it to overshadow the church."  

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