A gentleman's club in Ontario, Canada, opened its doors on Sunday to allow a church to gather. The couple leading the church says it is an attempt to attract those who would feel uncomfortable in a traditional church setting.
Jack and Sharon Ninaber, who are part of the Elora Road Christian Fellowship, held their first church service at The Manor gentlemen's club in Guelph over Easter weekend. Sharon, Jack's wife, told the local CTV television station that when she originally suggested the couple begin holding church services at the strip club, she was joking.
After discussing the idea further, however, the couple decided the unorthodox services would be a creative way to reach those who would shy away from a traditional church setting. They are specifically hoping to attract residents from Sue's Inn, a nearby transitional house for the homeless and the addicted.
"We want to share stories of people who have found freedom and experienced some life change. Just to inspire people, give them hope because if they're in the halfway house, I feel like they're halfway there," Ninaber told the New York Daily News of his new mission at The Manor.
The pastor, who was formerly the leader of Grace Community Church in Marden, added to the Waterloo Record that the purpose of the church gatherings is to instill a sense of community and trust in attendees. "I think God can bring hope to their lives but is this really about building trust and friendship."
Ninaber told the local media outlet that although he and his wife were only expecting 40 people to show up for their first service on Easter Sunday at The Manor, they actually had a surprising 70 people attend.
"Jesus was called a drunk and a friend of sinners in his time because he hung out with these people. For us, it's not telling people to go to church. It's telling people they can have a relationship with Jesus. Even in a bar," the pastor told the Waterloo Record.
Pastors holding unconventional church services to reach different groups of people is nothing new. Some churches, including the Gathering United Method Church, have opted to hold their Sunday services in local bars. The St. Louis-based church has held services in the local college-crowd bar, Humphrey's Restaurant and Tavern, near the St. Louis University campus.