Connect with the Community During Advent
By Bryan Tener
The Advent season can be a fruitful time for a church to connect with the local community. Opportunities abound to listen, serve, and offer hope in a season that moves us toward the love of God known in Christ. Here are three ideas to help congregations connect with their neighbors in ways that make a difference.
1. Create a Community Advent Calendar.
Your church could design a physical or virtual Advent calendar that is visible to the community. Encourage church members, nonprofits, local businesses, and community leaders to contribute to the calendar, offering content, promoting a community event, or sponsoring an act of service. Use social media, local newspapers, and community bulletin boards to spread the word. Create pathways for people outside the church to engage with the Advent calendar, whether it’s through the church’s social media pages or website; or make the calendar visible in a high-traffic area. The calendar can be a point of reflection, community connection, and an offering of hope to others. The Michigan Annual Conference, in 2022, offered reverse Advent calendars that offered spiritual disciplines and prompts to collect items needed for local food banks. Check the Michigan Conference website for ideas and adapt them to the needs of your community.
2. Plan Community Caroling or Concerts.
Plan and promote community caroling pop-ups with schools, community groups, or other churches to increase the number of those caroling and to increase community involvement. Use these events as an opportunity to collect donations for a local charity or food bank. Invite church members and reach out to local performers—from school choirs to musicians. Invite those who attend to bring items to donate —hats and gloves, blankets, canned goods, or other community needs. This could be a great way to spread cheer and joy and address needs. Churches like Anaheim United Methodist Church in Anaheim, California and Arcola United Methodist Church gather and sing carols throughout the community. Some local churches sing at senior centers, city parks, and other places where people gather; others host carol singing and provide hot chocolate and other treats to guests.
3. Plan Advent Community Service Projects.
Identify local needs and plan service projects that align with the themes of Advent. Involve church members in organizing and participating in these projects. Collaborate with local organizations, charities, and community leaders to maximize impact and build relationships. These projects could include things like organizing a coat drive, providing hot meals to the unhoused, and partnering with local shelters to meet specific needs. The church could frame these activities as a way to live out the themes of hope, love, joy, and peace during Advent.
Click here to explore more advent resources and ideas from Discipleship Ministries.
When implementing these ideas, encourage church members to invite friends and neighbors, emphasizing the inclusive and welcoming nature of the events. Focus on hospitality and offering a safe and welcoming space, whether that space is within the church or outside the walls so that people feel and know they belong. While these might be one-season or one-time events, keep the long view in mind. These one-time interactions, through God’s grace and work, can lead to long-term relationship growth with the community and can be the beginning of a faith journey as people interact and engage with faith, hope, peace, and love in Christ experienced through the local church’s Advent outreach.