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Get Out There!

This article was published several years ago in the “Columbia Union Visitor.” Even though it is dated, we like some of the ideas and believe it may be helpful to those who are looking for ways to connect with their communities.

25 Ways to Bring Christ to Your Community This Summer

You want to do your part to fulfill the gospel commission and bring the people in your community to Christ, but the question is “How?” As Ellen White counseled in Christ’s Object Lessons, “We are not to wait for souls to come to us; we must seek them out where they are” (p. 229). So this summer, before you put up the tents, rent the halls, print the brochures, or knock on doors, get out there and mingle as one who desires the good of your community. We hope this guide—filled with practical innovative ideas, and even some new twists on old ideas—will help you get started:

1. Host a car show. That’s one way to get people to locate the Adventist church. New Jersey’s Meadow View Junior Academy in Chesterfield is getting ready for its eighth annual antique car show, flea market, and fundraiser that attracts hundreds annually. Mt. Holly pastor Bob Hoyt shows off his 1950 Studebaker and enjoys meeting members of the community.

2. Adopt a police officer or fireman. Some churches adopt highways. But if you want to know the people in your neighborhood, why not visit them, pray for them, and honor them. Until recently Potomac’s Takoma Park (Md.) church pastor, Dan Pabon, served as chaplain of the local police force where he spent time listening, praying with officers, and counseling them during difficult times.

3. Give a caregiver a day off. In every community, people care for elderly parents, disabled children, or others in need of constant support. This can be a lonely, draining responsibility where even the thought of complaining would cause undue feelings of guilt. Find them and offer to stay with their loved one so they can take a break, go out for a meal, or run errands.

4. Minister military Families. Some soldiers are on their second and third deployments to Iraq. No doubt their families could use a listening ear or helping hand. To help their children have a good holiday, WGTS, the radio station of Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Md., held a gift card drive that yielded $28,800.

5. Plan a block party. Be sure to get permission from authorities and support from neighbors. Chesapeake’s Hagerstown (Md.) church shared health tips, veggie dogs, and music at last year’s “Fun in the Sun” event, which drew 100 visitors. Allegheny East’s (AEC) Garden of Prayer congregation in Baltimore had a fish fry, music, games, and a flea market. “We wanted to become better acquainted with our community and get back in touch with members who had strayed,” says Pastor Ron Edmonds. The event produced several new attendees.

6. Organize an extreme makeover. No need to call Ty Pennington. Once you’ve identified a home, park, or other community eyesore, fix it up. Get permission from authorities, partner with area organizations, recruit volunteers, and ask local businesses to donate goods and services. When it’s finished, hold a community-wide dedication and celebration for everyone involved.

7. Change your mindset. If you want to reach the community, make sure your church is community-minded. That’s what David L. King, Sr., pastor of AEC’s First church of Paterson, N.J., emphasizes. “I redefined ‘community’ and told members that the community is where they are—on the bus, at work, where they shop,” he says. With this new understanding, members found it easier to witness. Soon visitors started coming from their jobs and neighborhoods. As a result, they’re enjoying a “steady stream of baptisms.”

8. Start a book club. Why should Oprah have all the fun? Invite friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to participate and choose books that make for thought-provoking discussions. The Women’s Ministries Book Club from Potomac’s Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md., is currently reading A Commonwealth of Thieves.

9. Take summer camp beyond our borders. While summer camps across the Columbia Union serve hundreds of Adventist youth (contact your conference youth department for summer schedules), two conferences have taken outreach to new heights

Mentoring Prisoners’ Kids – Thanks to Edith Tucker, president of Allegheny East Conference’s Prison Ministries Federation, 60 to 70 children of incarcerated parents get to attend Camp Daniel L. Davis in Pine Forge, Pa. “While it’s easy to minister to those without problems, I knew these ‘at risk’ children would truly benefit from a camp experience,” she says. While they enjoy a week outdoors, their surrogates—grandparents or other relatives—get a break. When the kids return home, these caregivers report improved behavior at home and school. As a result of the 3-year-old program, there have been several baptisms.

Helping Single Moms – When Mike Stevenson was the Ohio Conference youth director he heard about the Indiana Conference’s program for single mothers and their children, he decided to try it. At a cost of $50 per mother and $25 per child—often paid by local churches—they get to spend a week at Camp Mohaven in Danville, Ohio, relaxing and rejuvenating their bodies, minds, and souls. While the youth participate in Cub or Junior camp activities, their mothers attend seminars on a range of subjects, from managing finances to running a household. Last year, 11 moms and their children attended.—Sherry English

10. Sponsor a “back to school” giveaway. Some families really can’t afford all the supplies kids need for school. That’s why AEC’s Trinity Temple members in Newark, N.J., created “Knowledge in a Bag.” Last fall they distributed 300 bags of school supplies to children in their community. Then at Christmas they gave away over 250 toys. With these and other caring initiatives, it’s no wonder they had more than 50 baptisms last year.

11. Pray for opportunities to witness. That’s what Potomac’s Radford church did last year, and they were not disappointed. After a church picnic July 4, a few members returned to watch the local fireworks because their location has a good viewing spot. Upon arrival, they were surprised to see the parking lot filling up with community residents! “I think they were surprised to see us too,” laughs Radford member and conference communication director Don Wood. Not passing up an opportunity to serve, the small congregation scrambled to make a few light snacks to share. “It was a very spontaneous thing, but it opened the door to additional community outreach,” Wood says. Later that month, they kicked off an eight-week health series and several residents attended.

12. Go green. We know Jesus is coming soon, but while He tarries, do what you can to care for the environment. Make sure your church, school, and community recycles, and host a free workshop with expert speakers and community leaders.

13. Invite your community to potluck. Hold it in the church or in the park after church. Add music, stir in a children’s story, and share practical tips like the eight principles of health (i.e., water, air, rest), and you’ll have a great recipe to whet their appetite for VBS.

14. Be the center of your community. That’s what Ohio’s Village church did when they opened Agora, a used bookstore in a business storefront in downtown Mason. After hours it’s used for community meetings, workshops, literary readings, film screenings, musical performances, cultural events, and to display the work of local artists.

15. Join the club. Or start one like Russell and Marquita Thomas of Allegheny West’s Southeast church in Cleveland. Their Umoja marriage club provides a safe place for couples to talk about issues, discuss books, and grow their unions. Now, who in your community wouldn’t benefit from such a positive small group ministry?

16. Be like Rocky Twyman. Unless tragedy affects our members, most of us are content to watch the news and pray from afar. Not Rocky Twyman. This resourceful member of Allegheny East’s New Life church in Gaithersburg, Md., seeks out those who are hurting and works to bring healing. Over the years, he has organized prayer vigils for families affected by crime; bone marrow drives for people he’d never met; and concerts in hospitals, prisons, and other places where people need hope. Because of his collaborative approach and deft public relations skills, many Adventist churches have been featured in the public media.

17. Embark on a homeland mission trip. It’s less expensive, helps raise awareness of your church, and lets your community know you care. Pastor Mike Fortune and Ohio’s First church of Toledo remodeled a “pocket park” across the street from the local women’s shelter. Not only did the mayor lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony, their efforts garnered great media coverage.

18. Map your success. AEC’s Beth-el church in Jersey City and First church of Montclair recently partnered with Adventist Community Development Services to make a “map” of their community. Rather than plotting roads, this map enables churches to identify needs and tailor church programs to meet those needs. “[One of] the greatest needs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in reaching the community is to realize that sometimes what we offer is not necessarily what the community needs,” says Montclair pastor Moses Eli. From their assessments, his church quickly discovered that it is ill equipped to meet the needs of its expanding Latino population. As a result, they’re developing an English as a Second Language course. Another challenge revealed in their findings is that pornography and alcohol addictions are taking a heavy toll on the families and churches in the area. Future plans include seminars to teach people how to contain those addictions.—Sam Belony

19. Go to the fair. Holiday parades, county fairs, and Little League are summer’s community fixtures. Have your Pathfinders march in the Memorial Day parade like Chesapeake’s Westminster (Md.) Timberwolves. Create a message float like members of Potomac’s Staunton (Va.) church. Sponsor an exhibit at the fair like Chesapeake’s Frederick (Md.) church.

20. Go surfing. Over 70 percent of Americans (208 million) are on the Internet and many use it to seek spiritual enrichment. To connect with Latinos, Potomac’s PC Jovenes ministry hosts a very popular youth website—www.pcjovenes.com—and a social networking page on Facebook. In addition, Mountain View’s Hannah Hendron, 11, created a blog called GEMS (Girls Embracing Moral Standards). Not to be outdone, her brother Benjamin, 9, created BIG (Boys Instigating Good). Both promote spiritual values to their peers. Visit G*E*M*S and Boys Instigating Good.

21. Chill at your local coffee shop. If you want to be where the people are, you’ll no doubt find them chillin’ at your local java joint this summer. That’s where central Pennsylvania pastor Lonnie Wibberding sets up a sign and offers free counseling (really!). The pastor of six churches and mission plants was intent on making friends in a county where there’s not one Adventist church. In time he met the owner, who also runs a computer shop upstairs, and they decided to start a youth ministry together.

22. Teach life skills. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a curriculum to teach youth the skills necessary to succeed in life? Paula Olivier, assistant pastor of AEC’s Church of the Oranges in Orange, N.J., believed there should be, and proceeded to create one.

She got the idea during her senior year in college, but it was seven years before she launched the LifeSkills Academy with 12 participants—six church members and six community youth—who were instructed in five areas: basic auto care, job readiness, financial literacy, income tax preparation, and teen health.

The response was overwhelming. Community leaders, including the mayor, were thrilled and lent their support. A local newspaper and a television station covered the story. Churches—Adventist and other denominations (one in South Africa!)—and even the local high school, expressed interest in implementing similar programs.

One year wiser, Pastor Olivier is working with community leaders and organizations to launch this summer’s program. It will last six weeks (instead of three), accommodate 15 students, and involve a more comprehensive curriculum with education on drug prevention, sexually transmitted diseases, and housing. Students will also be required to volunteer at local businesses for 20 hours where they’ll be evaluated for professionalism and ethical conduct.

In addition to the one for youth, Olivier plans to develop similar adult programs. And, to further expand this outreach program, the church has founded the Community Family Enrichment Services Center. Through it, they aim to improve health and wellness in and beyond their city.—Sam Belony

23. Produce a concert in the park. Church wouldn’t be the same without our musicians. Share their talents with your community by organizing a free concert or summer series at the park or local mall. The Medford, Ore., church is known for their annual “Jesus in the Park” concert.

24. Go to jail. Many churches visit nursing homes on Sabbath afternoon. But Diane Medley Smith, community outreach coordinator for AEC’s North Philadelphia church, regularly takes 30-35 members to the local youth correctional facility. They sing, mime, share poetry, and do skits, all to share positive messages and influence their incarcerated peers to make the right choices.

25. Knock, Knock: If nothing else works, knock on the doors of your neighbors, befriend them, and trust that God will use you to minister to their needs in His time and His way.

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About Celeste Ryan Blyden

Celeste Ryan Blyden

is editor of the Columbia Union Visitor.

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