By Nathan Pace
Southsider Voice correspondent
You may expect church evangelism efforts to be centered around picnics and vacation Bible schools, but members of Mount Pleasant Christian Church in White River Township are assisting in an unconventional route: sending women into strip clubs to share the Gospel.
Mount Pleasant is a volunteer stronghold for the Stripped Free ministry, a facet of Carmel-based Tabor Ministries (TaborMinistries.org). Kim Tabor founded the ministry with her husband, Brian. She and a few other female volunteers are the only ones who enter the clubs.
“We go into four different clubs in Indianapolis, and we go and tell the women that they are loved and they matter,” Tabor said.
Although Stripped Free is only 18 months old, it has grown from one to four clubs where its volunteers operate. Most of the clubs are on the Eastside, where a few volunteers try to build meaningful relationships with the women.
One of the volunteers is Stefanie Jeffers, who previously worked in a strip club a decade ago. During her three years of employment she lost her house, her car and custody of her daughter. Today, she is reaching out to dancers at the same club.
“I had to get to the place where I had nothing, and I turned to God,” Jeffers said. “We say rescued, redeemed and restored, and that is what he has done. It is very personal for me to walk into a club a decade later and say God loves you where you are because he loved me where I was.”
It was Jeffers who was able to use her connection with a club owner she worked for to get the ministry into its first club. With every first-time visit, Tabor and Jeffers introduce themselves to management and the bartender to get permission to speak to the women.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Tabor said. “In such a way that we have met owners from other clubs who have invited us to come in and do this with their girls. It increases positive energy in the club.”
Tabor says they have not been denied access by a club owner. Volunteers order a soft drink and pay cover charges to be respectful of the business. While in the club the volunteers have their backs to the stage.
“We don’t go in screaming about a new life, and we definitely want the club owners to know that,” Jeffers said. “We have an opportunity to go into their workplace and minster to them.”
Once the volunteers are able to speak to the women, they give them gifts donated by supporting churches. Gifts range from nail polish to gift cards and jewelry.
“We take this free gift in, spend time with them and become their friend,” Jeffers said. “We want them to know that we are part of their community.”
Tabor says the volunteers make it known to the girls that the gift does not carry any attached strings.
“We tell them we are going to come in every two weeks and we are not going to expect anything from you in return,” Tabor said. “That you are loved and there is a God who loves you.”
While the volunteers are evangelizing at clubs, a prayer team is supporting their efforts at Mount Pleasant, where communications director Johnette Cruz helps the dancers get connected when they visit the church. Mount Pleasant has volunteers to sit with the women during service.
“That’s what you do in a friendship,” Cruz said. “Start kind of at surface level and then there is a rapport all of a sudden.”
Tabor says that there are roughly 30 clubs in Indianapolis, but to have volunteers in each of them will require support from more churches. Other needs of the ministry include donations for two annual outreaches for the children of the women in the clubs, a back-to-school event in the summer and free Christmas gifts six months later.
“Our hope is that since this is a standalone ministry that we can get support from local churches,” Cruz said. “So that we can expand our volunteers and expand our goal into reaching more clubs.”