by Kevin Hamilton
With concerns about social and economic justice featured regularly in newscasts and political conversations, church leaders must constantly rethink ways to equip and position the church in this generation. How can the church effectively connect with people for the purpose of introducing them to Jesus?
In the spring of 2010 Harvester Christian Church (HCC) in St. Charles, Missouri adopted Micah 6:8 as our mission statement. Our purpose is to equip God’s church to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God—words that intersect all walks of life and call us to action. As a result we have become more focused, united, and energized in our efforts to connect with our community.
Working with the Community
Many good organizations exist in our area to help people who are experiencing difficult circumstances. These groups are motivated by compassion, their lifeblood is the volunteer, and they meet a wide range of social and economic needs. A main focus of HCC’s outreach effort has been to raise up volunteers who are motivated to share the love of Christ through acts of kindness.
Mary provides a good example of this. With help from Willows Way, an agency that provides support to those with challenges, Mary is able to live by herself; however, it is difficult for her to keep up with the maintenance of her home. When our volunteer team arrived at Mary’s home, they found significant structural damage, mold, worn out furniture and carpet, and a lot of clutter. The more they worked, the more problems they uncovered. Everyone agreed it was best that Mary move out for a few weeks. She was devastated at the thought of leaving her home, but she trusted Sarah, her advocate at Willows Way, and made plans to stay with family for a few weeks.
In the days that followed we met with Mary, her family, and with Sarah to lay out a plan. Although Mary’s family had limited resources, they did have the skills to fix the structural damage in her home. We cleaned, painted, and installed new flooring. Sarah worked with Mary to do away with the clutter. Within a short time we delivered some good used furniture and Mary moved back home. Without Sarah we would not have had Mary’s trust and her fear of losing her home might have come true.
Other organizations we could have partnered with include Crisis Nursery, The American Red Cross, The Delta Center, The Emmaus Homes, Youth in Need, Kids Against Hunger, and Urban K-Life of St. Louis. You can Google any of these organizations to find local opportunities to act justly and plug Christian volunteers into existing needs.
Working with Other Churches
We have also engaged in partnerships with other churches. Recently, with the Mid Rivers Christian Church, we took sandwiches and bottles of water into the camps of the homeless, hoping to build relationships and learn about their specific needs.
We also joined forces with Mid Rivers Christian in “Towel and Basin Day” when volunteers spread across the area to serve. We organized teams of volunteers for a Saturday of packing food with Kids Against Hunger, building wheel chair ramps, winterizing homes, and other projects.
In May 2010 we were invited by the Calvary Church of Mid Rivers and Windsor Crossing Community Church to particpate in “Serve Day.” On a soggy, rainy day, volunteers worked side-by-side to serve people under the banner of Christian love. Together we raked leaves, painted homes, and cleaned local parks and streams, forging new friendships with each other and the community. Serve Day (www.serveday.org) is a national event.
Our acts of service stem from the basic desire to meet new people and forge relationships that will lead to life changing face-to-face conversations. Recently we talked about the simple math of our outreach efforts. If we connect 500 people in a four-hour outreach event four times each year, that equals 8,000 hours in the community. If we connect 500 people for one hour each week for 52 weeks, that equals 26,000 hours in the community. Many variables can affect this mathematical equation. We understand that people are not projects and numbers, but this process challenges us to stop and think that an event-driven outreach strategy may have its limitations.
As we move toward 2011 we are considering how to place more emphasis on giving our members ideas, tools, and training to share the message of Christ and be intentionally evangelistic in the course of everyday life. How can we create opportunities for personal relationships in our neighborhoods, our workplaces, and our leisure time that will lead to life changing conversations? Here are some ideas.
• Ask families on your street to collect coats or food for the homeless or others who are less fortunate. Then host a cookout to sort the collection. In the process you’ll build new relationships and strengthen old ones with your neighbors.
• Offer your garden produce to neighbors you haven’t met as you go for an evening walk.
• Bring a bag to collect trash when you take the kids to the park to play.
• Scrape the ice from a coworker’s windshield.
• Be open to opportunities during your recreational and leisure activities. Randy modeled this readiness for us during a recent golf outing and later wrote about his experience.
Going out to play a round of golf, I walked on as a single. As usual the course marshal paired me up with someone. We had the usual ‘What do you do for a living?’ conversations and he asked me if I had any kids. I told him about my two boys and he shared the story of his son’s difficult birth and the many struggles they went through just to keep him alive. Acting out of character, I began to talk about how God had worked in my life and the relief I felt knowing I was forgiven of my sins. I also talked about how life seemed to make more sense when I looked at it from God’s perspective. After our game we exchanged phone numbers and two short hours later he called me. His wife had just told him she was pregnant with their second child! He said if it had not been for our conversation earlier that day, he would have been afraid of what was ahead. He thanked me again for sharing my faith and encouraging him to be a better father.
We believe the community relationships we have established will provide more opportunities to work with other organizations and churches as we go out and serve, creating goodwill in our neighborhoods. We also want to look within ourselves and be open to opportunities where we spend our days—in the office, the factory, and even on the golf course—to build personal relationships that will lead to life changing conversations.
Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Kevin Hamilton ministers at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri.
How will you reach out?
• Which of Kevin’s outreach suggestions could you put into practice? What other outreach ideas do you have for your community?
• What organizations are already providing helpful services in your community? Make a commitment to support or join in with those organizations in the next few months.