Pastor’s Wife Erin Stevens Finds Success With Stripper Ministry, Book to Be Released Mid-June

Katherine Holland, Mary Harvel and Lisa Ciamboli were working as strippers before Erin Stevens of Friendship Community Church ministered to them and helped the women leave the strip club and start new lives. (George Walker IV / THE TENNESSEAN)
Katherine Holland, Mary Harvel and Lisa Ciamboli were working as strippers before Erin Stevens of Friendship Community Church ministered to them and helped the women leave the strip club and start new lives. (George Walker IV / THE TENNESSEAN)

Erin Stevens isn’t that kind of evangelist who stands outside the strip club with her bullhorn, yelling at the customers to repent or face the flames.

She’s inside the lobby with the strippers, feeding them a catered dinner twice a month, giving them Mary Kay Cosmetics gift sets and quietly slipping her cellphone number into their hands.

She brings no Bibles. No tracts. No lectures.

Just love and an unusual mission given to her by God two years ago, she says, after she spent 21 days fasting and praying for a building for nondenominational Friendship Community Church in Mt. Juliet. Friendship, launched by her husband, Todd Stevens, in 2006, has more than 1,000 members but still meets in Lakeview Elementary School’s rented auditorium.

“I prayed for a building. I got strippers,” Erin Stevens said. Three so far, in fact, who left the business for some unexpected careers.

After hearing the words in her mind — Strippers are not your enemy, they’re your mission field — Stevens sought counsel from the national Strip Church ministry group and started calling club managers. She has co-written a book about her experience, one published by Nashville’s Thomas Nelson and going on shelves mid-June. Its intriguing title is “How to Pick Up a Stripper … and Other Acts of Kindness.”

Perhaps the most unexpected part of the story: The Association of Club Executives, a national trade group for strip club owners, is fine with Stevens’ ministry.

The association is well aware of the Strip Church effort, in which individual congregations send their evangelists into the clubs discreetly— that’s part of the deal — to help women get out of the business, confirmed Executive Director Angelina Spencer. Not every club owner wants to participate. But if the strippers don’t want to be there, she said, they shouldn’t be.

“We’re about entertainment, not enslavement,” Spencer said. “There is a contingent of dancers who really have it in their hearts to witness for the Word.”

It’s not simple to see the ex-stripper in Stevens’ converts.

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SOURCE: The Tennessean
Heidi Hall

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