How can a church be a blessing to its community at Christmas? How can it display God’s goodness and kindness to people who have not tasted it? Grace Church came up with a way. Each year they throw a party outside on their church property, and then invite the community to come and be part of it. And people come – in their droves.
What intrigued me the most is they do this on a Sunday morning, in place of their regular morning service. When I first heard about this, it kind of threw me. I’ve always taught about the importance of the weekly gathering of God’s people, where we come under the hearing of God’s word, grow together in grace and exercise our spiritual gifts. The people of Grace know that. And for the rest of the year, they faithfully adhere to it.
But they are also taught about the importance of caring for the community that is around them. God has placed his church in the world to be a light and to reach out to those in darkness. We do that in both word and deed. This is the “deed” part for Grace. Sunday mornings are the time when most families are free, and are looking for something to do. It’s the perfect window for outreach.
I was down there early to help set up. There was no shortage of workers, busy putting up marques, building sets for games and blowing up balloons. There was a great spirit about the place, and a united purpose. Here’s some of the guys setting up the Coconut Shy. We needed a backboard for the missed shots to bounce off. A piece of ply and some stakes pounded in with a sledge-hammer and there we have it!
This is Philip (the one with the white shirt). He’s one of our elders. But he’s also an expert at creating the perfect chemical brew for soap bubbles – like BIG SOAP BUBBLES. He he is explaining the ingredients. He was quite excited about it because he’s been working on it for some years. I heard the word “detergent” and after that he lost me. It just got too complicated. But look at the results – isn’t that cool? Kids get to be inside their own bubbles. Ingenious. And so simple. Most of the games and activities were – the hat toss, the candy-floss, the jumpy castle and the family portrait gallery. The idea is just to be a blessing to families.
And they sure seem to appreciate it. I got to talk to a number of them. Take Jack for example. Jack has just moved into the area from Westport. He works for a scaffolding company. “I bet business has picked up for you guys with all the new OSH laws,” I said. “Tell me about it,” Jack answered. We chatted about that for a while. Then, choosing the right moment I asked, “So Jack, do you have any church background? Do you have a faith?” “I was raised Mormon,” he answered, “But I saw a lot of bad things in that church.” “Religion has a lot to answer for” I said. He told me his wife was very open and they might be looking for a church to go to. “I’d definitely come to this one,” I said. We both laughed.
Welcoming and greeting people is very important at this kind of event. Church’s can be weird places for some people, so you need to put them at ease the minute they walk in the door. It takes a certain personality to do that well, and Grace has a good number who fit the bill. This is Mandy, welcoming a family in the door and explaining what goes on and what cool things the kids might like to do. Notice the parents are really listening. Also, people go out the same way they come in. So not only do they get welcomed in, but farewelled out. They leave with some info about our church, a kids story book on the birth of Jesus, and a little booklet about what Christmas is all about.
Here’s some more pics of the fun that went on:
I’m really enjoying being part of this church. I’m learning a lot about what it means to care for your community and be a blessing to those who may have never stepped foot inside a church or they have had a bad experience in the past. They leave an event like this thinking Christians might not be such bad people after all. And perhaps (one may never know), they might give God another go.