When the Opportunity Comes - Issue #88
In early spring, the town council in Vinton, Virginia, voted to end the operation of the community's municipal swimming pool. The tough economy meant the town could not subsidize the pool for its upcoming season.
Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church saw the need in the community for safe enriching summer activities. They wanted to connect with the community in a practical way that would meet these needs. As their pastor, the Rev. Lynne Alley-Grant, says, "When the opportunity comes, you have to go to the ball; don't wait for it to come to you."
So Thrasher Memorial entered into a unique partnership with the town. According to county ordinance, the town continued as operator of the pool, overseeing safety, health standards, and maintenance. The church provided volunteers for concessions and other areas, produced special Wednesday evening free family-themed dinners and entertainment, and expanded the community center by operating a "craft shack" on the site. With volunteers from the church, the pool hours were extended into summer evenings for family swim time.
The town's special programs director says, "Thrasher saw the need for the community to continue to have this resource for our children, our youth, and families, and they stepped forward to offer programming opportunities, volunteers, and food for promotions. This is a very different kind of partnership we're entering into."
By August pool attendance was up 73 percent over the previous summer. The local news media credits the "guardian angels at Thrasher" with saving the pool's sixty-first season.
Thrasher has also benefited from the partnership. New relationships have been built, and there is new vitality in a church that took on what seemed an impossible task.
Some Questions for Discussion
- How does your congregation "go to the ball" rather than waiting for it to come to you?
- Have there been times that your congregation faced a seemingly impossible task with creative solutions? Are there lessons from those experiences that could inform your current situation?