This article was published in Issue 21 of GO WEST!.
I grew up as a pastors’ kid in a CBWC church plant. Yes, you read that apostrophe correctly: both my parents are pastors and were on staff at Southside Community Church for most of my life. So my childhood memories mainly consist of the wacky outfits and even wackier outreach ideas that accompanied early 90s church planting.
I remember my dad, soaked from ponytail to tie-dyed tank top to Birkenstocks after his turn in the block party dunk tank. I remember smoke machines during Sunday gatherings. I remember high-waisted jeans, tambourines, and circle-dancing with Russ Rosen. I remember the Gross Olympics—no, you don’t want to know—and roasting pigs on huge spits in the parking lot.
We look back and laugh at our past antics. And we’ve done some learning and listening along the way; for example, we’ve learned the hard way that our Muslim friends are unlikely to show up for the Big Pig Gig. But I think we shouldn’t dismiss too quickly what God was doing in those times or those places.
It’s easy to knock an old way of doing something, but we need to recognize and celebrate that God is drawing people to Himself, and He can work in the lives of our friends through—and sometimes despite—our less-than-perfect initiatives.
Let’s be encouraged by the stories of God at work in every decade, and let’s not be afraid to embrace and respond to the change in our communities. Twenty years ago, Southside’s yearly block party was exactly the right thing to endear ourselves to our neighbourhood. But what do our neighbours need now?
The makeup of the neighbourhood has changed, and so has the makeup of our congregation. And that’s OK. It’s what culture does. We don’t have the same gifts to offer that we did in the past, but our community isn’t asking for those things anymore anyway.
This season, our congregation has entered a listening time. We’ve asked God what He’s up to in Edmonds, and where He wants us to join in with our time, money, skills, and emotional energy. We could list a hundred needs to fill, and I’m excited about which one or two God is drawing us to for this season.
So tell us: what are your wacky outreach stories from the past? And how is your church choosing to engage its community in the coming year?