Prepare your people and celebrate the work
By Jeff Campbell
I think it’s important to celebrate. I’m all for it. Celebrations indicate something is special, be it a birthday, a holiday, and, in the case of First United Methodist Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois, every small victory that leads to other victories.
For this church, its commitment to Discipleship began with recognizing their need to reach out to the community.
If the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, then every interaction with members of the community was an opportunity to plant seeds for future fruit.
The Rev. Jonathan S. Crail, who served as church pastor until August 2017, said that if the mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, then every interaction with members of the community was an opportunity to plant seeds for future fruit. How right he was!
In 2015, Crail and the church members had to admit they didn’t know the neighbors living just a few blocks away from the building. So, they put their heads together and decided to host an Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood children in the nearby park. They thought having the Easter Egg Hunt on “neutral ground” (a city park) instead of on the church grounds might be more appealing to the unchurched neighborhood families.
They promoted the event through the neighborhood and on social media. On the morning of the event, small groups of families began to show up. Then, more came. The trickle began to grow. Crail and the church were surprised and thrilled when not 60, not 100, but 160 children came! Counting the children’s parents and others who came, they had almost 300 people show up.
Of course, not everyone who came to the Easter Egg Hunt came back for the worship services, but the reputation and rapport the church began to build in the community led to some of the people choosing to visit.
The church has realized they can reach out in new and unexpected ways. Getting outside the building and off its own property can make the church more accessible to its unchurched neighbors.
While an Easter Egg Hunt is certainly nothing new for churches, an event such as that can be used effectively if your people are ready to meet the unchurched people who come. Consider a training class for your people on how to engage with new people. Teach them how showing an interest in the lives and stories of others can become an opportunity to share the gospel and invite them to your church services.
Conversations like that can be a useful discipleship tool. Authentic interest in a person’s life is powerful.
Are you interested in participating in One Matters? Contact Jacqui King by email at [email protected], or by phone at 615-340-7295. Learn more about the One Matters Discipleship Award.