Dance Unto the Lord
One Reason Dance Studio is in the Minneapolis arts district. Housed in a strip mall between a tobacco store and a Mexican restaurant, instructors teach salsa to up to100 people weekly.
But on Sunday mornings, the mirrors lining the walls are covered and chairs are set up on the dance floor in preparation for services at One Reason Church, an Assemblies of God congregation.
“We know that dancing and church are usually separate in the AG world,” says co-pastor Jenna Dean Perez, 32. “It’s been the most effective tool for outreach that we’ve ever used.”
Jenna and her co-pastor husband, Jose R. Perez, 45, prayed for a unique way to reach northeast Minneapolis. The answer came through an unusual medium, but has produced impressive results.
The dance studio opened in January 2017, and the church opened nine months later. Since last October, 47 people have made salvation decisions at One Reason Church — all of them because of their initial involvement at the dance studio.
Jose, a native Venezuelan, owned six Latin dance studios in Venezuela while pastoring. In the U.S., combining dancing and ministry typically isn’t a customary means of evangelism. But in a community of artists, it’s practical.
“God is a God of creativity,” says Jenna. “We put Him in a box because of our religious upbringing. The reality is He can work outside of our box to reach people. God knew a traditional church was not going to reach artists.”
Stephanie Benegas works with Jose as one of the dance instructors. She says she grew up in church and loved to dance, but didn’t feel she could do both.
“It became really legalistic for me,” she says. “We had these unspoken rules. But I’ve always had a passion for dance.”
One Reason has been an answered prayer.
“This is God confirming to me that it can be done,” Benegas says. “You can use dancing for God.”
Benegas has seen a number of people that she’s taught in the dance studio start attending One Reason Church regularly and their lives transform as a result.
Church services are bilingual, primarily with Jose teaching in Spanish while Jenna translates to English.
As the dance students have grown from 15 a week to nearly 100, so have the numbers of church attendees. Today, the Sunday morning service averages 60 people, most of them attending as a result of the studio. Salsa is an interactive dance, which allows the instructors to get to know students on a personal level and to build relationships.
“Dance has always been categorized as sinful,” Jenna says. “But God can use dancing for a purpose.”