Yesterday our church kicked off Advent with a number of simple service projects that any church, small group, family, or individual can afford. These make a big impact with a small investment of time & money.
1. Gift cards for ICU Waiting Rooms. At any given time in your community there are people reeling from traumatic events or devastating illness. Their families can be found in waiting rooms at your local hospital. Pick up a handful of Gift Cards to the closest restaurants & coffee shops, drop by & give them out with a “Praying for You” card from your church. Offer to pray for anyone you get to talk with. Simple act of kindness can breathe life into someone that is overwhelmed with bad news. If no one is there, give them to the nurses desk & they’ll pass them out for you. These nurses could also use prayer & encouragement. Call ahead & find out when visiting times are so that you know when people are in the waiting rooms. $100 for 5-10 gift cards.
2. Care packages for the Homeless. If you live in a metro area or near the interstate, you probably get an invitation to serve the homeless everyday at area red lights. Should I give them money? is a constant question. Few of us carry cash anymore. Doing nothing is not desirous for most believers. How about make up some simple care packages with some goodies that that can be passed out the window of a car. Keep 3-5 in your car at all times. $10 per bag.
3. Christmas Decor for Nursing Home Residents. Go to your local nursing home & ask for a list of residents with no local family. The reality for these residents is often few visits if any, few seasonal decorations for their walls, few convenient items like warm socks or lotion. Offer to pray for them. Find out what they want or need & plan a return visit. Spend some time listening to their story. Yesterday, some of our team got to meet a lady who was 105 years old! Incredible story. $25 for a few Christmas decorations & simple cards colored by kids.
4. Fruit baskets for Elderly shut-ins. Local shut-ins are lonely. They often feel trapped. They often have simple to-do’s around their home that can be taken care of in less than an hour. Making up fruit baskets to deliver to them gives you a reason to encourage them with a visit & find out other needs that your faith community can take care of on their behalf. $25 for a bowl or basket & fruit & other goodies to go int them.
All day I’ve been hearing stories from those who delivered these items to people in our community. Simple acts of kindness make a big difference & the holidays offer many opportunities for us to extend kindness & plant seeds in the hearts of people in need.
What other similar outreach ideas have you or your church done at Christmas?
Hurricane Isaac was a non-news maker for most of the country, but devastated a few of our communities in South Louisiana. Here’s the story of the faith-based communities response in Madisonville, Louisiana.
Video by Matt Marrs, of Harmonic Films.
Over the last two weeks the Northshore was blessed to play host to World Changers in Tangipahoa & St. Tammany Parish. 35 home repair projects were completed and dozens of local churches as well as youth groups from around the country, who paid their own way, partnered to make real change happen for elderly, disabled, disadvantaged families in our region. Thanks to FBC Ponchatoula and FBC Covington for hosting. Couldn’t have happened without them. They mobilized dozens of volunteers to prepare meals and make 100’s of volunteers comfortable on their campuses. Also, dozens of local churches prepared and delivered lunches for crews serving in the community. Dennis Ellzey, Youth Pastor at FBC Ponch and Abe Haley, Student Ministry Associate at FBC Covington did great jobs as Project Coordinators. Also, couldn’t have done it without Agency Reps who raised money for materials and provided coordination: the Fuller Center for Housing in Hammond led by Tamara Danel and St. Tammany Parish Governments Social Services Dept led by John Tobin. Construction coordinators were Tom Rabalais in Hammond and Adam Martin with Kent Construction’s Faith Division in Covington.
World Changers is a great partner for community revitalization and for cultivating a region for gospel penetration and church multiplication. It’s also a great way to bring Associational churches together for good in the community. I think every association should see if World Changers would be a fit for its region. Our National Staff rep in Louisiana is Bill Kisner – email@example.com. Get in touch and find out more about World Changers.
Next year we’re hoping to pull off four World Changers sessions on the Northshore: Spring Break at Camp Living Waters and Summer sessions in Hammond/Ponchatoula, Covington, & Slidell. I’ve been saying it would be neat if World Changers could do 75-100 home repair projects on the Northshore and then our local churches could match it with 75-100. 150-200 home repair projects on the Northshore in 2014! Let’s do it!
Love what one Northshore church is doing to get their small groups On Mission For Others. FBC Mandeville is having each of their Life Groups choose a “NEAR Mission Project” to engage in together. They’ve started a blog to communicate local opportunities for mission. Check it out: http://fbcmandeville.blogspot.com/.
Imagine the possibilities for your Small Groups or Sunday School classes…
Dave is now a hero of mine. Met him this week and learned about his church starting endeavor INSIDE one of South Louisiana’s Jailhouses. He served there as an inmate chaplain. He will be released on Friday and will continue his mission on the OUTSIDE. Pray for Dave and others like him who are overcoming and helping others overcome through prison ministry. Pray for the many Inmate Chaplains, reaching out to those INSIDE like none of us can.
If you’re interested in joining men like Dave and being ON MISSION to those in prison, shoot me a line. Laborers are needed to facilitate Celebrate Recovery, Fatherhood classes, Financial Planning classes, Discipleship courses, or help with churches starting INSIDE.
“I was in prison and you came to me” ~ Jesus, Matthew 25:42
Our church & association of churches conducts a lot of Block Parties. Bridge Church does so many we decided to get our own Block Party Trailer. Our Associations Block Party Trailer is used at least 40 times each year for a wide variety of events. Recently I was asked if Block Parties are effective or just something else to add to a long list of things that keep Christians busy, but not bearing fruit. Here’s a few reasons why I think Block Parties are a great tool in the outreach strategy of a missional church:
1. GATHERING. Someone said there is three keys to church planting or church growth: 1) Gathering people, 2) Gathering people, 3) Gathering people. The Evangelistic Block Party is a great way to gather people or gather where people are & build relationships, share the gospel, cultivate community, & have fun doing it.
2. INCARNATION. “The word became flesh & blood & moved into the neighborhood” John 1:14 (MSG). A Block Party is a great way to get the church building relationships where people are. We do Block Parties in neighborhoods & subdivisions, at local parks. I also love to incarnate at the communities Block Party type of events. Why try to gather people when they’re already going to be gathered somewhere else. Just build the right relationships, show you care, & add Incarnational Christians to the party! Some good places to incarnate through Block Partying:
- Multi-Housing complexes. Many times the manager already has a budget for community events. He/she just doesn’t have the time or know how to pull them off.
- Subdivisions & neighborhoods. Use your yard or the communities common space.
- Area Events. Every community has a festival of some kind. Get involved, pay for space, or whatever you have to do to add your life to the party.
In the incarnation, Jesus got close to our needs. Be prepared when you get close to the needs of people to be changed & challenged. Incarnation can hurt if you have thin skin. That’s probably why we don’t do it that much. I can send a postcard mailer & 40-50% of the people will throw it away. No harm to me b/c I don’t see their reaction. When you’re there, you do see their reaction. You’ve got to know the season, which leads us to #3…
3. SPIRITUAL FARMING. There are really three reasons for any outreach event a congregation or small group conducts: 1) CULTIVATION, 2) PLANTING SEEDS; 3) HARVESTING. Block Party can be an environment for all three to take place. And it’s important to know ahead of time which one of these you are doing so that you can measure effectiveness.
Using Block Parties to CULTIVATE. Cultivation is an important part of evangelistic ministry & it’s something that we are leaving off our strategy as churches in the West (see Dr. Chuck Kelly’s great message about Spiritual Farming here) Why? Probably because it doesn’t net immediate results. But it is necessary for healthy multiplication of disciples over the long haul. If I plant seeds without knowing & improving the conditions of the soil, my garden may have a short life.
We’ve used Block Parties to Cultivate or initiate relationships in new communities over the past three years & it’s helped us in several ways:
- To show apartment managers & community leaders that we care.
- To test the spiritual soil or readiness of an area or population segment for the Gospel.
- To find the persons of peace in a neighborhood.
- To train a team & work out the kinks in the “how to’s” of Block Partying
What does a cultivative Block Party look like? No real agenda. Loud music. Food. Opportunities to interact & engage in conversation. A lot of “this is what we’re about” talk. And a hardy “WE’LL BE BACK’ when it’s over. Focus is on finding those few people that show interest & readiness to hear the gospel.
Here’s a list of goals that one of our Block Party teams recently wrote up for a cultivative event we do each month in our city:
- learn/memorize the name of one child you speak to (so you can call them by name next month when you see them)
- tell at least 10 people (total): who Bridge Church is, what we are about, and what we believe
- see at least one person/family we meet at the BP at another Bridge Church event – (“If you like what we do here at the Block Party, you would love coming to ______ (Our neighborhood block parties, Guy’s/Girl’s Night, Outdoor Movie night, FIA, Sunday morning service).”
- each time we speak with someone, have the conversation go beyond, “what type of balloon would you like”, “would you like a fan”, “what color face paint do you want”….actually engage others in conversation, “what is your name”, “where do you work”, “how long have you lived in this area”.
Using Block Parties to PLANT SEEDS. Cultivating & planting seeds are closely related. In gardening you’re often doing both at the same time. In Evangelistic ministry like Block Partying it denotes another step of intentionality. For us in some of our new communities where the soil has been hard, this has looked like…
- introducing New Testaments & giving them away to everyone who attends
- having a Mic & having someone give a quick testimony as to why we’re there
- inviting people to a follow up event like a Bible Study in the area
- or inviting them to church
Using Block Parties as a HARVEST tool. It takes a season to grow a harvest. It also takes mature plants, the right conditions, the right tools for a harvest, & a somewhat knowledgeable harvester. For an evangelistic Block Party to be a Harvest event you should have the trust of the people that have given you permission, people who are ready to harvest – i.e. that can share the gospel & lead someone to put their faith in Christ, & the right harvest tools. Some ways to use Block Parties to harvest:
- Have 12 or more people trained to actively share the gospel with the crowd.
- Have a Prayer or Spiritual Interest tent designated with trained counselors stationed there.
- Share the gospel & give an opportunity to respond from a stage. Utilizing an evangelists, an entertainer of some kind, or a personal testimony of someone in the group.
Block parties can be an easy & fun tool to have in your outreach strategy. For best results apply gardening principles:
- Know what season you’re in – cultivating, planting, or harvesting.
- Plant generously. the more seeds you plant the more you’ll harvest.
- Prepare for a harvest.
- Have fun! Christian should bring life to every party!
If you’re interested in doing a block party yourself, start at our Northshore Baptist Associations Block Party Trailer page, or join Bridge Church this week at several Block Parties we’re doing:
- Columbia Street Block Party in downtown Covington, tonight, Friday, June 29, 6-8pm. Cultivative event. We’ll be painting faces & passing out balloon animals & making new friends.
- Oak Villa Mobile Home Park, Sunday, July 1, 5-7pm. We’ve been cultivating & planting seeds for two years in this community. Getting ready to start harvesting!
- The Groves Apartments, Monday, July 2 5:30-7pm. Cultivating relationships in a brand new apartment complex.
- Madisonville 4th of July Celebration, July 4, 2pm-until. Incarnating at a local 4th of July party. This one’s going to be a blast!
One way we see New Testament Christianity framed in the ministry of Christ is in the connection between relationship and mission.
Mark 3:14 says,
“he (Jesus) appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him (RELATIONSHIP) and he might send them out to preach (MISSION).”
Then speaking to his post-resurrection followers, Jesus says in John 20:21-22,
“As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (MISSION). And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (RELATIONSHIP).
Then before ascending to heaven, he gave his followers their marching orders for the rest of time in Matthew 28:19-20,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (MISSION). And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age (RELATIONSHIP).”
To be in RELATIONSHIP w/Jesus, means to be listening to His voice through regular time with Him and to be empowered by and dependent upon His presence and not our own strength. To be ON MISSION w/Jesus means to continue His work of teaching, proclaiming, healing, having compassion, and sending (see Matthew 9:35-38) and walking in obedience to Him.
We must have both to have a robust, growing, multiplying faith and church. At times in my life, I’ve lived with one without the other. Emphasizing only relationship meant for me becoming a Sunday morning Christian. Making Christianity only about knowing the Bible and being at Christian events. Eventually RELATIONSHIP will dry up and Christianity will become RITUAL and RELIGION. Our relationship with Christ, will lead us to be ON MISSION with Him. Charles Spurgeon may have said it best when he said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”
I’ve also emphasized MISSION at the expense of RELATIONSHIP in my Christian life, leading to frustration and near burnout as I try to do God’s work in man’s strength, or legalism as I try to DO MORE for God, SO THAT I can be an acceptable Christian. His Mission can only be accomplished in His power. It was that power that turned the frightened, locked away disciples into a missionary force that turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). And only Christ makes us ACCEPTABLE to God. There is nothing more that we can do to deal with our sin or the worlds. Christ finished the work. Our only task now is intentional obedience, surrender, and dependence upon Him for this mission.
So, are you in RELATIONSHIP w/Christ? If so, are you ON MISSION w/Christ in this world? Healthy disciples grow as these two collide. Church leader, does your church provide opportunities for developing a healthy relationship with Christ as well as opportunities to be on His mission in the world?
This weekend, our church will hold our second Faith in Action Sunday of 2012. Every time there is a 5th Sunday in a month (four times per year) we take the weekend and provide opportunities for people to be on mission in our community. It’s been a great way to emphasize sending and mission among our community of disciples. Check out more info and our Faith in Action itinerary at bridgenorthshore.com/faith-in-action.