With almost 34,000 copies sold to 360 churches in Canada and the United States, the Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN) Close to Home pamphlets about dealing with personal issues and problems are proving their usefulness.
“It’s gratifying to see the response,” says editor Byron Rempel Burkholder. The series deals with personal problems that often remain hidden and undealt with — things like pornography, bullying, gambling, child abuse, debt, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders and other issues.
“It shows there is a need for information about issues that are hard to talk about,” he adds.
Pastors who are using the materials agree.
“We found them to be sensitively written, balanced, and a good starting place for seeking further help,” says Tim Reimer, pastor of Danforth Mennonite Church in Toronto. “Two or three of the titles seemed to vanish rather quickly.”
Terry Shue, pastor of Kidron (Ohio) Mennonite Church, says that in addition to using the pamphlets at the church, they are also given away at a booth operated by local pastors at the Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale.
“We found that they really touched what people were looking for,” Shue says. “Most all of them were taken by people who were in conversations with pastors at the booth.”
For Shue, the popularity of the pamphlets shows that people are more interested in a faith that connects with issues they are dealing with in their real lives. “The Close to Home series does a good job of bringing our theological perspective into the issues of modern life with a pastoral touch,” Shue says.
At First Mennonite Church, Edmonton, Alta., the pamphlets are used both as a ministry to members and “as a form of outreach to others who pass through our doors,” says pastor Donita Wiebe-Neufeld.
The pamphlets are “one way we try to acknowledge our brokenness and encourage healing,” she says, noting that the church plans to install racks in washrooms “so people can pick up pamphlets on sensitive topics without worry of being noticed.”
The church “especially wanted people to have access to resources on issues they might have difficulty speaking about, such as depression, abuse or addictions,” she says. “The pamphlets are coming from a theological perspective that feels right to us. This ministry is compassionate and encouraging and hopeful, and it’s good to see the Mennonite name on it.”