- (Photo:Strip Church)
Strip Church Network, an organization that first aimed at reaching out to women primarily working in Las Vegas strip clubs for the last five years, has taken their ministry efforts nationwide, spreading hope to strippers in other cities where the sex industry also exists, say its leaders.
The organization is a network of ministries that are led by women around the country who are trained and equipped with resources that become useful when they make late-night visits to strip clubs with the intention to show the women that they are loved and valued by them and by God.
"In 2011, we realized that we needed this type of ministry all across the nation, not just in Vegas," said Tara Ulrich, the Strip Church Coordinator, to the Christian Post. "We knew our team couldn't just travel around the country visiting strip clubs, so we decided to train and equip other women to do this in their own cities."
Their work includes taking home-cooked meals or gift bags filled with makeup, nail polish and similar items to the women who oftentimes become receptive to their non-threating and no-strings attached gospel message.
"Our intent is not to try to make women quit their jobs or shut down strip clubs. We don't believe that is our role. What people don't realize is [that] women in the industry are just like any other women. We all crave and desire real relationships, so that's what we do. If they decide they want to leave the industry and do something new, then we are there to help them with that and provide the resources they need," said Ulrich.
Ulrich also says they have trained hundreds of women across the U.S. and in Australia since 2011, and the network currently has over 70 different ministries that engage in active outreach throughout clubs, brothels, massage parlors, and porn conventions.
"Any woman that feels called by God to do this type of outreach can do it, whether they were once in the industry or are a stay-at-home mom with three kids," said Ulrich. "They just need the passion, calling, and belief that women in the industry are loved and valued by God."
As a part of the network's training program, women are taught how to deal with strippers from the moment they enter a strip club. They are practically and spiritually equipped on how to begin and stay in ministry.
"This is a seed-planting ministry, so consistency is the key," said Ulrich.
As Strip Church continues to grow, so does the demand for more training. In 2014, the organization will host preparation workshops in Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia.
"The Chicago training will be unique, as we are holding it in conjunction with the Chicago Exxxotica Porn Convention, where our partner ministry, XXXchurch, reaches out to attendees and industry workers," said Ulrich. "Those attending training will have the opportunity to serve alongside our team at this convention, letting people know Jesus loves porn stars and addicts as much as he loves pastors and soccer moms."
She also added that ministry leaders in training will have the opportunity to hear testimonies from women that were once in the industry, and who have left and are going back into the clubs with a different purpose. They will also be able to do outreach into the clubs with local teams to begin getting experience.
"It's a truly remarkable experience to be able to watch the process and journey [with] these women that attend our trainings, and the work God does through them that they never would have imagined," said Ulrich.
During her time with Strip Church, Ulrich says the most rewarding aspect of her work is having the opportunity to sit back and see the "big picture" of every ministry leader's life.
"It's always amazing how God aligns women with our ministry, and how he brings their stories together with ours. I've seen women that were once in the industry, go back into a club for the very first time since they left, and come with a new purpose. I've seen women as young as 19 and as old as 60, have a passion to reach out to sex industry workers," said Ulrich.
Although she is a part of the process in helping women begin their outreach ministries from the beginning, Ulrich remains humble about her role in the organization and says she considers herself similar to the women she trains as being "simple, ordinary women that build relationships with other women to encourage them and be there for them for what they need."
"We show them who Christ is and His love through tangible ways," said says.