Church gives free haircuts
By Lindsay Peyton
Sending students back to school on the right foot starts at the top at Journey of Faith UMC in Humble. On Sundays last month, the church turned into a barber shop, offering children in the community haircuts free of charge. The smiling faces that accompany each new ‘do are well worth the effort, Rev. Stephen Goldsmith, Pastor of Journey of Faith explained.
Helping students head back to the classroom with confidence has long been a priority for Journey of Faith. “In the month of August, we focus on families in our sermons,” Goldsmith said. “Children are going back to school and getting ready for the year.”
About three years ago, the pastor began brainstorming with his outreach team to find more ways to help students. “The idea was to become more of a family festival,” he said.
That’s how “School Rocks” was born. “Rocks” stands for “Reaching Out and Connecting Kids to Success.”
“For all children, no matter what socioeconomic status they are, we have a responsibility at church to connect them to the resources needed to be successful,” Goldsmith said.
In 2019, the church focused on gathering backpacks and school supplies to distribute to area children in need. The following year, COVID-19 placed the event on hold.
This year, Goldsmith wanted to try something new. “We put the backpacks and school supplies on hold,” he said. “Other people do that.”
He had a vision – free haircuts. “But I didn’t know which barbershop I should go to,” he said.
His wife connected him to Jamal Diamond at Clarity Cuts. “We got on the phone,” Goldsmith recalled. “I said that the Lord put this on my heart.”
The response was serendipitous. Diamond’s brother had just received his barber license, and the two had been talking only a couple days earlier about a way to offer free haircuts.
“But we didn’t know where to go,” Diamond told the pastor.
“If y’all got the clippers, I’ve got the venue,” Goldsmith said.
Diamond only had one condition. Instead of one Sunday, he proposed every Sunday for four weeks. He explained, “You can only do so many haircuts in a few hours, but if you have a couple of weeks . . .”
Goldsmith loved the idea. Diamond rounded up four more barbers to help him, plus one church member Burrel Gray III, also a barber, signed up to help. “It just all came together,” the pastor said. “The barbers started handing out flyers too.”
The partnership with Journey of Faith and Clarity Cuts felt heaven sent. “That’s what faith is,” Goldsmith said. “It’s all about ‘I can’t see how to do this, but I’ll move forward.’ And what resources you need, He will provide.”
The free haircuts kicked off on Sunday, Aug. 8. Free food was provided by Red Ring BBQ, and Party Rentals donated a bounce house. Construction company Al Legacy LLC also made a donation to cover costs to operate.
The barbers and volunteers returned on Sunday, Aug. 15 and Aug. 22 to help more children. The last event is scheduled for Aug. 29.
“It’s been so cool to watch this, to see the children step out of the chair with fresh smiles on their faces,” Goldsmith said. “We even set up a photobooth so we could take their pictures.”
The motto at Journey of Faith UMC is “focused forward,” which is inspired by Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
In the text, Paul is moving forward, Goldsmith said. “Paul says that there will be challenges in this walk of faith, but that even in those challenges, he will press forward,” the pastor explained.
It’s a message that’s been on Goldsmith’s mind a lot lately, especially in the midst of COVID-19. “In the pandemic, so many people have been more creative,” he added. “They’ve found out that they have gifts they can use.”
And one creative way the church can help neighbors is by offering free haircuts for back to school.
“Being able to impart confidence in a child when they step out of the barber chair, it’s priceless, Goldsmith. “It lines up with the word of God. We can still be a blessing for our community.”
The pastor also quoted former NFL star Deion Sanders: “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”
Goldsmith hopes that each new haircut will instill that confidence in students. “I don’t know too many people – male or female – who do not step out of the chair feeling a whole other level of confidence,” he said. “There’s just something about a nice new haircut. You can go out and tackle the world.”
Next year, Goldsmith hopes to expand the effort to include young women. “We’re already getting information for some hair braiders,” he said.
He also believes that seeing the barbers, the barbecue crew and the church volunteers will inspire the children. They will leave knowing that their church and community loves and supports them.
“When they get older and become adults, I hope they’ll say, ‘I remember the church in my neighborhood, before the first day of school, offered free haircuts. I remember how good I felt. I really hope that children walk away with those memories,” Goldsmith added.
The pastor also cuts hair himself.
“It’s always been a pleasure,” he said. “Maybe next year, I’ll jump in. I’ll get a chair and cut some hair too.”