Concord breakfast to link local leaders, pastors, in service to needy

Spencer Swain considered himself fortunate to be invited to the Cooperative Christian Ministry’s first Pastor-Leader Breakfast in 2013, even though he pastored a church on the geographic fringe of most of the institutions CCM serves.

Swain took advantage of the event’s mission: to network with other clergy and community leaders in the greater Cabarrus area so they all can more effectively serve the county’s needy.

Swain now is founder and chief executive officer of a Concord-based upstart nonprofit named Families First, which focuses on building family units from the children on up. The agency’s seeds, he said, were planted at that first breakfast two years ago.

On Jan. 27, CCM will host its third annual Pastor-Leader Breakfast at Concord First Assembly at the Village, Suite 15. The meal will be served at 7:30 a.m., followed by a program from 8-9 a.m.

CCM Executive Director Ed Hosack said his organization’s goal is to have 180 people, including 120 pastors, attend.

Mayors and city council members from Concord and Kannapolis and the Cabarrus County commissioners also are invited; some attendees also bring guests.

“Our primary purpose of the breakfast is to get the pastors in the room together,” said Hosack. “We work with 100 churches, and it’s like working with 100 different entities.

“Our relationship shows they all have a similar passion and desire to make a difference, and it’s consistent with the things we do: feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and helping people in financial despair.”

The 33-year-old ministry’s mission is to coordinate efforts to confront the issues and to help individuals overcome those challenges. The organization’s operating principles include acknowledging individuals as people of value through God’s grace, holding them responsible and accountable for their disadvantaged circumstances, and for overcoming them.

Among CCM’s annual events are its Empty Stocking Fund at Christmas and the Cabarrus County CROP Hunger Walk, which raises money to support CCM’s food pantries.

The ministry’s programs also include its Mothers and Children Housing Ministry and its BackPack Program, a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina through which nonperishable foods and healthy snacks are provided to at-risk youths and their families.

“We work with the churches on a regular basis,” Hosack said. “We let them know what the needs are in the community. The churches reach out to us. They are confronted with those needs at their doorstep.”

Hosack said Cabarrus County is home to about 360 churches of various denominations. In the breakfast’s first year, 90 people attended, including 60 pastors.

Last year, CCM hosted three breakfasts, targeting pastors and leaders in three separate county areas: Concord, Kannapolis, and a combination of Harrisburg, Mount Pleasant and Midland. The three events drew 105 people, 89 of whom were pastors.

At the time, Swain was pastor at Grace Lower Stone Church, a historic institution in Rockwell in southern Rowan County. At the breakfast, he met Pam Smith, program manager for CCM’s Mothers and Children Housing Ministry.

Swain admired the principles of that ministry, which provides emergency and transitional housing to women with preadolescent children who are in imminent danger of being homeless.

Swain said he coordinated efforts by all Grace Lower Stone’s ministries to support the Mothers and Children Housing Ministry by providing meals to its families and rallying volunteers.

“The people at CCM were really stretching their arms out into the rural parts,” said Swain. “There were really no borders to what they were doing, and that meant a lot to me.”

“We had some of our groups go through their process, where they show you everything they do, and where you can plug in somewhere,” he said. “That turned into a relationship with (Mothers and Children) that started at that first breakfast.”

As part of the program at this year’s event, several local faith-based organizations will be recognized for their efforts in the community, including the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity and the Church of God Children’s Home.