First Presbyterian unveils SMART program

Published 8:59 am Monday, November 5, 2012

First Presbyterian Church of Atmore Pastor Jim Thorpe hoped to reach out to a younger audience and saw an unmet community need.

The church will be starting a new program called SMART. The program, an acronym for single mothers are real treasures, is an outreach ministry for single moms in Atmore.

Thorpe said the opportunity is tremendous.

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“There are 85 to 100 churches in Atmore and yet most of them are very small churches under 100,” Thorpe said. “So, churches generally speaking are declining. Churches like us that are getting older demographically are looking for ways to reach out to the next generation.”

Thorpe said SMART fits perfectly into the Christian ideals of helping underserved portions of the community.

“Our vision as a church is to kind of expand the demographic, expand people we reach in terms of our age and things like that and not just be a kind of a one-demographic church, to make the church look more like Atmore itself. You’ve got culture deteriorating all around you—as we see crime rates, unemployment, and so forth. The culture is deteriorating, the values are dropping off, but churches have failed to engage the culture around them and help be a part of the solution. So, we see SMART as being part of that solution.”

SMART committee member Stephanie Bell sees single mothers as being a significant portion, specifically in Atmore, that needs to feel like the surrounding community cares for them.

“If you break it down and look at the statistics we’ve got over 2000 single mothers living in Atmore proper,” Bell said. “That’s not even including the mothers in the surrounding communities like Robinsonville, Canoe, Perdido, areas like that. That’s an outstanding need there. When you break it down even further and you look at how many of those moms actually go to church, most of the time they don’t. Not to mention that I was raised by a single mom. So, I saw her struggle and I saw her walk away from church crying several times because she felt shunned. So that’s what it’s important to me specifically and I know on our committee we have a lot of ladies that were also in that situation at one point in their lives. They have that experience and they care a lot about it just as much as I do.”

Thorpe said he hopes to share the central message that First Presbyterian does care for those in Atmore community.

“‘First Presbyterian cares’ is kind of our motto,” Thorpe said. “We want to be seen as a caring church. So, we thought, well, how can we do that? Well, scripture tells us that true religion is religion that looks after orphans, widows in their affliction that keeps oneself unstained from the world. We see true religion as reaching out to those who need assistance and certainly single mothers would under that umbrella.”   Thorpe believes there are enough members with experience to serve as strong mentors.

Bell hopes single mothers will feel welcome and open to share their experiences without feeling as if they are being judged.

SMART will meet at First Presbyterian Church of Atmore on Nov. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. All single mothers in the Atmore community are invited to attend.