By Jennifer Johnson
The Mountain Riders pool funds to buy a new coat or a bag of groceries for a member in need. They visit each other’s friends and family members in the hospital. They build wheelchair ramps and do home improvement projects. In fact, the Riders—a ministry of Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, MD—function as the church, offering opportunities for motorcycle riders and motorcycle fans to study, serve, and grow together.
The Riders launched in 2005, and today more than 70 people participate in the group’s activities. While they enjoy their rides, leader Todd Holmberg talks more about the Bible studies, service projects, and life changes.
“We’re the size of a small church, and it takes a lot of people working together to make it happen,” he says. “We do Bible studies on Wednesday and Thursday nights. One person plans our rides and organizes the trips. We have a welcome team, a prayer team, and a visitation team that makes calls and visits hospitals. The church even gave us chaplain badges so a few leaders can get in to the ICU and pray with people.”
Mountain Christian has been supportive since the first days of the Riders, and Holmberg says the ministry has intentionally learned from the church and its leadership.
“We adopted the church mission statement, ‘Love God, Love People, Serve the World,’ as our statement, and we began offering two identical Bible studies just as the church offers a variety of service times,” he says. “Mountain uses technology very effectively, so we make sure to use photos and videos to get the word out about our ministry.”
In return, Mountain includes the Riders in outreach events like their “Celebrate the Light” outdoor festival at Christmas. When the church asked Holmberg whether the Riders wanted a spot for the group, he replied, “Give us five spots and you’ve got a deal.” The Riders built a 45-foot-long wall out of galvanized steel and added Christmas trees and Harleys lit up with LED lights.
“We took a 200-gallon oil tank and filled it with hay for a manger, wrapped old tires in lights for wreathes, and hung a chrome and leather sign that said ‘Deck the Halls,’” he says. “Burn barrels kept people warm, and kids loved getting temporary tattoos.
It was a hit. We got 10 spots the second year and built a sleigh pulled by eight motorcycles.”
The Riders are a ministry, Holmberg says, and people want to be part of it. In fact, the group created the “Auxiliary Riders” for those who want to participate in the studies and service projects but don’t have a motorcycle.
Holmberg says he thinks the group connects so well with others because it is made up of broken people who are real about their struggles. The group works with Celebrate Recovery, since many people in the biker lifestyle struggle with addictions. They have also partnered with an off-roading group in the church and held a big cookout for all three groups last Labor Day weekend.
“We have ex-outlaw bikers, some who have done hard time in prison,” he says. “We have recovering addicts, single moms, 70-year-old widowers, and folks recently divorced and starting over. We have blue-collar and white-collar guys, blended families, and spouses who have been together for decades. We have guys who have been riding motorcycles since they were toddlers on dirt bikes and some who just passed the test for their license last year. We are all different. But none of us is immune from pain. I guess a lot of church folk try to hide or cover up their brokenness. With bikers, you pretty much get what you see.”