Sometimes, a good home-cooked meal can be its own kind of ministry — and that’s how Bruce Harriman, managing partner at American Church Group of North Carolina, lives out part of his calling to serve others. That’s why he’s been named the 2023 recipient of the Brotherhood Mutual Kingdom Builder Award. This award is presented annually to the individual who has made a unique impact to advancing the Kingdom through personal involvement or support of local, regional, or national ministries.

“My birthday is Cinco de Mayo, so for more than 15 years I’ve been inviting about 250 people over for a backyard barbecue to celebrate,” said Bruce. “That was kind of the catalyst for my food ministry — it’s just such a joy and a pleasure to serve food to people.”


Discovering a Calling

“It’s fitting that Bruce received the Kingdom Builder award because it’s been his life’s mission to advance the Kingdom,” said Dan Book, vice president sales, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company. “From serving as a missionary in France with his wife Angie to his servant attitude toward his customers, co-workers, and friends — Bruce has always been a ‘think of others first kind of guy’ and it’s rubbed off on so many.”

Bruce never expected to work in insurance, and he definitely didn’t expect his career path to merge with his passion for barbecue. He became an agent after being let go from a pest control company (something he chalks up to “youthful stupidity”), and he knew immediately that protecting churches and ministries was part of his calling.

“All I’ve ever wanted to do was serve the Body of Christ, and I never realized an insurance career would allow me the opportunity to do that,” said Bruce. “I just fell in love with it, and I really felt like I was doing what I was created to do. Taking worry and concern off ministries, praying with church leaders, and everything related to my job allowed me to flourish and build the Kingdom of God.”

Looking back at his time as a missionary — and even in his pest control job — Bruce can see how the Lord prepared him for his job as an agent.

“The ministry we went to France with was based in Texas, and they produced one of the nation’s top-selling Christian children’s records,” said Bruce. “We would go door-to-door selling those records in Texas. Even when I worked in pest control, I was selling treatments and options for protecting the home. All of my interactions prepared me to serve the church as an agent, and getting to have the shared foundation of Jesus with my customers is such a blessing.”

In his spare time during his career, Bruce filled his hours with barbecuing and cooking for friends. He has several pastor friends who call on his help for events and fundraisers. This hobby laid the groundwork for a ministry that would soon overlap his career, making them two sides of the same spatula.


Shaping a Ministry

Several years ago, when Bruce heard of a customer in need, he realized he could use his love for feeding people as part of his ministry. Jackson Park Ministries, located in the Charlotte area, offered support and housing for people who had lost their homes — but a local church partner that usually provided food for the ministry was unable to do it. That’s when Bruce had the idea to step in.

“I got my church and even Brotherhood Mutual involved to support this ministry, and we were able to do a barbecue fundraiser at absolutely no cost to them,” said Bruce. “My ministry kind of developed from there. I just started telling people, ‘If you need help with anything, if you need food provided for an event — I’m here to do it, and it won’t cost you anything.’”

“Bruce is one of the most tenderhearted, giving people I know,” said Dan. “He blesses people by cooking for them, and he is willing to serve everyone — even opens his home to people. And his food is delicious. I always tell people that if I could choose my last meal, I want Bruce to be the one cooking it for me.”

Bruce has offered barbecue ministry at events in his own community, from Campus Crusade activities to football games at the local high school. He’s also taken his ministry on the road to serve people in need after disasters like the Gatlinburg fires in 2016 or support Brotherhood Mutual’s CoMission teams. In all his years of cooking, Bruce has learned the power of inviting people to the table and meeting their needs with a little barbecue.

“I get to feed a few hundred people at a time, and it’s an opportunity to love all of them,” said Bruce. “I would love to partner with disaster relief agencies in the future so I can not only serve alongside them, but also take care of people through this barbecue ministry.”


Serving Food and Sharing Faith

In preparation for his golden years, Bruce isn’t settling down — in fact, he’s gaining momentum. He recently turned his love for feeding people into a 501(c)(3) organization, known as Barbecue Disaster Relief Ministries.

“I don’t think Christians retire,” said Bruce. “I think they just find new ways to serve the Kingdom, and that’s what I intend to do. When I was thinking about retirement and asking God what he would have me do, he reminded me how much joy and pleasure I get from cooking and serving people. My goal is to continue serving the Kingdom even in retirement through this new ministry opportunity.”

 Every year, Brotherhood Mutual makes a $5,000 donation to one or more ministries chosen by its Kingdom Builder award recipient. Bruce plans to put those funds toward a new grill that will allow Barbecue Disaster Relief Ministries to feed up to 1800 people at a time — and he also hopes to purchase a grill that gives him the ability to make breakfast items, since he is currently limited to serving lunch and dinner.

“Through Barbecue Disaster Relief Ministries, I’ll be able to set up my grill in places where disasters like hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes have occurred,” Bruce said. “I’ll spend a couple of weeks feeding both the people who have suffered losses and the disaster relief teams that come to support them.”

For Bruce, building the Kingdom has been a lifelong endeavor — and it has looked a little different in every stage of his life. From serving as a missionary overseas, to supporting the local church, to now using food as a ministry, Bruce has kept his eyes set on pleasing the Lord.

“I really believe God has allowed me to do this,” said Bruce. “All of my success is his providence in my life, and my main goal is to bring honor to him. In everything I do, I hope I can use the gifts and talents God has given me to share his love with others.”


Further Reading