Editor’s note: This article appeared in CTA’s Grab N’ Go newsletter a few weeks ago. We didn’t want Sunday school teachers, Awana leaders, or catechists to miss the ideas, so we are reprinting it here. Let us know what you think. (And be sure to share your helpful ideas with us so we can pass them on! Just click on “Leave a Reply” below.)
Frommer’s, a top name when it comes to travel guides, says that traffic is a nightmare in Atlanta. And boy, are they right! There are plenty of road rage and traffic headaches to go around. The average commuter spends 60 hours stuck in traffic each year. Traffic congestion is so bad that it’s become a problem for traditional children’s ministries where parents drop off the kids and return later to pick them up. Families stop going to these ministry events because the traffic is just too much to handle.
When Children’s Ministry Director Charessa Koontz started work one year ago at Christ the Shepherd Lutheran Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, she brought with her a new concept for outreach ministry—the conviction that the most powerful Christian outreach opportunities are located right in one’s own neighborhood.
“Everyone has a two-mile radius around them,” she says. “They know the people in the radius. They know how to serve them. We want to encourage people to put their fingerprint on a local person, a community, or a service project.”
Charessa utilized this concept in her previous ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Richmond, Virginia. There, she had started a program that invited church members to use pledge cards to commit volunteer hours, just as they would if they were pledging a monetary donation. Her initial goal was to have each individual commit five hours of service and, according to Charessa, members “blew that number out of the water!”
“It’s not just about giving money to a cause,” she says. “It’s about using all of the resources that God has given to you.”
Charessa is excited to implement this type of volunteer program at her Atlanta church this fall. They have a handful of service opportunities planned. In addition, Charessa and the members at Christ the Shepherd are making a dedicated effort to reach neighborhood children at Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and on other holidays.
“Our members are going to buy Halloween candy and Valentine’s Day cards anyway,” comments Charessa. “So, why not provide something more meaningful at the holidays? Why not hand out something that’s going to have an impact?”
To do this, Charessa sets up a table at church and stocks it with activity books and small gifts from CTA. Church members are then invited to purchase the CTA items and hand them out instead of or alongside secular gifts. For example, this fall members passed out nearly 300 Who, Who Loves You? Gospel Fun Activity Books for younger children and 300 SHINE Activity Books for older kids on Halloween night.
All of Charessa’s efforts point back to her church’s vision: Up, In, and Out—reaching up to God, in to one another, and out to the world that God loves. Aside from individual members volunteering, she wants the church to live out this vision and be known for its devotion to Christ-like service.
“We want the church to work in its two-mile radius, too,” she says. “We want the church to be known as the place that loves and cares about the community. We want the neighborhood to know that our church is a place where they can come to ask for help with meeting their needs. When we show our appreciation for the people in our community and honor them, they notice—especially when it’s a church acting in such a secular world. We just want to be known by how we love and be a blessing to our community with service. If we do that, we can’t lose.”
What outreach opportunities are located in your two-mile radius? We encourage you to get started today! Carry in the groceries for your neighbor, read to a class at your local elementary school, or have morning coffee with nursing home residents. Whatever volunteer opportunity you choose, CTA provides Christ-centered resources so that you can share the Gospel story with others. Visit our website to choose from our wide selection of devotional books, witness bracelets, bookmarks, and gift sets.