Accept Grace: A Free Outreach Idea
Main Idea: Accept the gifts of our community, share them.
We all know that church is not just a social club. "Love thy neighbor as thyself," is something we continuously strive to live by. By loving our neighbors, Christians spread much goodness both to the world and to the Kingdom.
Our beloved Protestant cultural ethic gives us the will to work our tails off serving others - but it also gives us guilt for loving ourselves. And yet this is part of God's commandment.
Jesus told his disciples that there would be suffering for those who proclaim his name, but he never indicated this suffering would be self-inflicted.
One of the reasons we've been gathering as Church for over 2000 years is to make our collective lives easier. This displays the glory of the Kingdom, enables the least of us to live humane lives, and allows us to work for the Kingdom in the world with an increased capacity.
In other words, church should make our collective lives easier and strengthen us for the sufferings that will come from the world who do not accept Christ as savior. There are and will be plenty of people who will want to kick us. We're not supposed to kick ourselves.
What does that mean for the small, shrinking, struggling mainline church? How do we make our lives easier and also make our neighbor's lives easier - strengthening both to do the will of God?
Honestly, there are a million ways. Let me give you one today.
First, let's look at some assumptions. Let's assume that the majority of your congregation is female. It's a demographic trend. I'm not judging you, but rather pointing out a statistical bit of data.
Further, any research you care to look at confirms that women do the lion's share of domestic tasks. Simply deciding what to eat, getting supplies, cooking food, and tidying up afterward takes an enormous amount of time, focus, and energy. Ask any woman to honestly say what would free up their lives to do other things, and they will likely mention this situation or others like it.
What would happen if we freed up the vast majority of the church and local community populations to do other things? Here's another fun fact: women provided with a leg-up almost invariably chose to improve themselves and their loved ones, and often their communities. Investment in women has a huge ROI (return on investment).
Here's one last foundational fact: giving things away is a terrible idea when developing something sustainable.
Okay, now let's look at the idea. We're going to mix up a few concepts: co-working space, homework space, co-operative organization, practical life training, dinner club.
Imagine, if you will, a church open weekday afternoon/evenings to receive anyone and everyone who wants a space to work on whatever project they've got going. Younger people too. It could be reading a book, searching the internet, writing a resume or blog, creating a website, doing homework… anything that doesn't distract others.
They take turns looking after the youngest kids (but we must make sure to meet legal requirements) and take turns cooking a simple healthy meal for all to share.
What would it be like to attend?
You arrive with your project. Maybe it's a resume. There are tables and chairs, and someone donated coffee and cookies. You work on your resume for a while, but it's a bit frustrating. The person across the table from you is interested in what you're doing. It turns out they're pretty good at resumes and give you some pointers. You notice they're reading a textbook and find out there's a program at the local college you're qualified for.
After a couple of hours, you've got a decent start on your resume and someone announces that dinner is ready. You share a meal with your new friends - soup and a salad. You see a sign-up sheet with an easy recipe to make alongside a couple of other people and put your name down for an evening a month from now. The church provides the groceries and recipes, and cooking a meal is a small contribution toward the enormous value you've received. Even if you show up for three days a week, that's three meals and several free hours to read and study and apply for jobs. You can even imagine having time to read for pleasure now. In fact, in the corner by the door, there are people gathered at a book club.
What a beautiful vision! How do we do this?
It starts small at the church level and expands. The congregation begins with one or two days a week. Most churches have a commercial kitchen, but if there aren't enough people interested, then just a brown-bag evening is a start.
Ultimately, collectivizing the meal is essential. So is the co-working space. These are the assets the church can utilize to serve both themselves and the community.
The church can donate groceries, but these can also be solicited. Corporate donors love to give to these sorts of projects. The most significant work for the congregation is a bit of management and commitment to attend - and join in! Six people should do the trick.
The hardest part may be to allow ourselves the benefits of this collective action. To take part in reading a book or learning something new. The second hardest part may be to explain to our husbands why we're not making them dinner. Again, ask any woman, and if she's honest, she'll tell you this is a nagging worry.
Too often, we take care of our home-life and then come to the church and serve. But what if we leveraged the best of both spheres of life and gave ourselves at least three hours of spare time a day? Even retirees!
Just imagine what we could learn or teach or do without exhausting ourselves! Just imagine the gift of three hours a day to those in our community who are working two jobs (or none) and are stretched to their breaking point.
We attend church for many reasons, but the church should also be a place we can gather, share, and make our lives stronger and easier for the work of the Kingdom. This Co-Working Dinner Club is one way we can do that. Not just for ourselves, but our communities.
Go ahead and allow yourself to bring up all the reasons this can't be done. When you've finished, then let yourself find a way to make this happen.
Because if we're self-sabotaging and exhausting ourselves, no one - including ourselves - will want to be involved in the church. And that's the last thing Jesus intended.
Others who have done something similar: