Thursday, May 15, 2014

Make Your Church the Center of Community Life - Summer Ministry Possibilities

For several years now I've written about how churches used to be the "center of community life"; families went to church on Sunday, children went to church for school all week and then community used the church for gatherings and special events. I have said, "In far too many cases, today our churches are viewed as places for 'church people', not places for the community."

This year I want to encourage us to once again think about how we can "throw open the doors of our churches", this summer and welcome our community in. Let's see if we can re-establish our churches as places where everyone goes and finds the center of their community life!

Consider some of the following, "door-opening" ideas and see if any of them would "fit" your church and community . . .
  • Last Summer my church did this by holding a family event with free food - burgers and hot dogs and all the fixings, bounce houses, music and more. Literally thousands of people came to this event - it was wonderful!
  • A less expensive, yet excellent way to open your "door" would be by hosting, "Saturday Picnics at the Church. If you have a nice yard, this is a great and natural way to invite your community to experience your church in a non-threatening way. Even if you are a city church without a yard, set up portable carports for shade and use foam core to make "trees" - place these around your parking lot and "create" your own "park/yard"! Promote throughout your community and invite families to join you on Saturdays throughout the summer for a picnic lunch, games and just a time of fellowship and fun! Always bring extra sandwiches, bags of chips, lemonade and cookies to share with anyone who shows up without a lunch - you could ask church families to bring enough for their families and to share with another family. As people see your picnic each Saturday, it will generate interest and curiosity and by the end of the summer, there is no telling how many community people may join in on the fun! (Move your picnic inside on rainy Saturdays!)
  • Monday Morning - Pick-Me-Up! - Involve your church "early-birds" and or youth to take on this opportunity to provide coffee for people in your community who are on their way to work! Promote throughout your community and invite people to swing by your church on their way to work for a free cup of coffee. You could even set up a small "cafe'" in your foyer for any who want to sit and enjoy their coffee, but for most if you have a table with a coffee pot, cups and lids you will be all set to hand out a cup of coffee with a smile and warm greeting to any who stop by!
  • Family Movie Night - Choose one month of the Summer and then promote your church as "the" place to be each Friday evening for Family Movie Night! Ask families to bring lawn chairs and blankets - have extras for anyone who shows up without them - set up a projector and show the movie on the side of your church as soon as it gets dark! Provide popcorn and lemonade and you have an opportunity for the entire community to come together for family fun! Be sure to get a license to show videos by contacting Swank Motion Pictures - 1.800.876.5577 for info on how to get this license for your church.
  • Chicken Barbecue-Off or Cookie Bake-Off! - Bring in grills and invite families in and out of your church to prepare their best chicken barbecue recipe in your cook-off! Provide a prize, trophy or ribbon for first, second and third place and plan for a lot of fun! Bring in potato salad, chips, corn on the cob and baked beans for a huge dinner/picnic after the cook-off . . . after all, you have to do something with all the bbq chicken! :-) You could have a simultaneous Cookie Bake-Off in your church kitchen - provide a prize, trophy or ribbon for this, too and then the cookies will be able to serve as the desert for your dinner/picnic!

These are just a few ideas for ways to make your church the center of community life this Summer in your town. Get a team of creative people together and see if any of these - or something you come up with on your own - might "fit" your church and be a "Summer Ministry Possibility" for you!

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