Several of of our church members asked a great question: “Since we have great space and facilities at the Meadows (our large recreation area),why did we choose to go to three different locations for our yearly patriotic community event, Celebrate America, this year?”
Here is my attempt at answering this question. In staff meeting our recreation minister, John Lemons introduced the idea to us that we all have a HOME and AWAY strategy for reaching people for Christ.
We have lots of HOME events on our beautiful campus: Pumpkin Patch, Celebrate America, Easter Egg Hunt, Choir specials, Holiday events, as well as, our every Sunday and Wednesday activities. We also host a 5 day/week Child Development Center, a Community Kids after school program, and a Camp Ridgedale that bring hundreds of children and their families to our church each day. We also have the Summit Counseling Center and a host of Recreation activities like softball and all the Upward programs. This “come to our campus,” HOME strategy, is a great strategy for reaching people for Christ, but its only half the picture. Each of the things I have mentioned are wonderful activities and God has blessed us with many people who have chosen to follow Christ as a result of these kinds of HOME events.
However, we don’t have quite as many AWAY events; the kinds of events where we go out to the community as a church to be salt and light. This year, we wanted to try some more events where Ridgedale goes to where people are who may not have an inclination (at least initially) to come to our campus. Perhaps this point is best illustrated by a true story.
Last summer, as a service opportunity, Ridgedale helped build a playground for the East Brainerd community at East Brainerd Elementary School. There were volunteers from the community, local businesses, the fire department, and from other churches. Several from our church helped out during this week long project including our Senior Pastor, Brother Bill. Helping with this event was a wonderful young man and his family. This young man began working with some of the Ridgedale team members (enjoyed their fun and friendly, albeit sometimes snarky disposition) and he was invited to come to Ridgedale for worship and Bible Study. The man and his family visited several times and recently joined the church. The man had chosen to follow Jesus many years ago, but had never been baptized. I had the great privilege of baptizing the young man in April. This man didn’t hesitate to help with a Pavilion building project a few weeks ago. He recently attended Bible study and helped with our first Celebrate America this summer (AWAY event).
To summarize: we went off campus for an AWAY opportunity, met a family who had never been to our church services, invited them to worship and study the Bible (HOME events) with us, they came, they joined, he was baptized, they became active in God’s work through HOME and AWAY events. That is awesome!
So there’s one answer to the reason we are doing 3 Celebrate America events in the community instead of on our campus this year. Next year, we plan for Celebrate America to be on the HOME schedule again.