By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
Louisiana Baptist evangelism team leaders are calling on churches to band together and join Southern Baptists throughout the nation for a day of service in April 2014.
To effectively pull off such an event, churches should start planning now, said Louisiana Baptist Convention evangelism team director Wayne Jenkins.
Scheduled as part of the North American Mission Board’s God’s Plan for Sharing initiative, the event calls for churches in each association to cooperate in order that they may effectively conduct a variety of service projects in their respective cities and towns on April 13 or 14. The goal, Jenkins said, is to make an eternal impact and build relationships with the community to fulfill the Great Commission.
The strategy involves a day of service followed by a season of service. “This is servant evangelism followed by ministry evangelism,” Jenkins said. “There are a number of things that churches can do to show the community they love them and want to minister to them.
“The hope is that ministries will grow out of this one day,” he continued. “If you minister to them while they are hurting and in need, that opens the door for communicating the gospel.”
The day of service projects Louisiana Baptists could take part in are endless and can fit every church size and budget. These include collecting canned goods for a local food pantry, sprucing up a park, hosting a barbecue for first responders, making over a teacher’s lounge, holding a car wash and assisting single moms and senior citizens with home, yard or automobile maintenance.
For those churches who do identify needs in the locations where they decide to work, that will translate into a season of service. This can include building a Habitat for Humanity home, adopting a firehouse or school, offering after-school tutoring services and providing ongoing home-improvement projects for senior citizens.
Jenkins said the most impactful approach is for churches to schedule the day of service on Sunday, April 14. Churches could start the day with an early morning organizational meeting, then depart to the community for the service projects. The day would end with a worship rally in the evening at each church.
“It has an impact when you place a sign on the door that the church has left the building to serve the community,” Jenkins said. “That fact that churches from all over the community would band together and minister to those needs on a Sunday for speaks volumes to the lost.”
The strategy also involves inviting neighbors and friends who are lost to join in for the day of service. This is a great way to build relationship with them and gives great opportunity to share Christ with them.
One church that did just that was First Baptist Pineville on Nov. 3. That day, 266 people met at the church for a short service and then dispersed throughout the community, working on 12 projects that included visiting with residents at a nursing home, painting a crosswalk at Louisiana College as well as a house and sprucing up three elementary schools.
The day before, members of the church traveled to Arnaudville. They assisted other churches in hosting a block party for New Life Community Church, a church they are co-sponsoring.
“It was a great way for us to impact the city,” said Stewart Holloway, pastor of the congregation. “But we didn’t want that to be a one-day thing in our own community. We wanted people to experience it and get excited as a Sunday school class and as a family to do more beyond that day and that’s what some of them did.
“With several people working in a community for one day, that can make an impact on a city,” he continued. “We wanted the city to know we were there to serve them.”
While that day of service was First Baptist Pineville’s first, First Baptist Lafayette has held a day of service for seven years.
Andrea McKenzie, minister of missions at First Baptist Lafayette, said in previous years, the church offered each Sunday school class up to 250 dollars after completing an application on how to spend that money on a project in the community. In 2013, church members gathered on a Saturday to complete projects requested by the campus of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, the theme of this year’s initiative. Other past themes have includes the Lafayette Parish School System, Lafayette Parks and Recreation, and Community First Responders.
McKenzie said some classes in the past have even adopted a site, such as a nursing home or school, to continue working on past the one day of service.
She encouraged other churches to consider such a day of service.
“A church will be surprised at the type of projects their people will come up with and the passion that God has put in their hearts,” McKenzie said. “They may not feel like they can get 600 people out to do a lot of projects but every community has a school, park, fire station that can be blessed with this type of ministry. This is something that every age group in your church can participate in.”
For its part, around 1,000 members of Celebration Church in the New Orleans area served the needs of residents in the Desire community and Lower Ninth Ward on Oct. 12.
The church partnered with local ministries and organizations with a variety of service opportunities, which included cleaning up and mowing lots and thoroughfares, while others were involved in repairing and/or painting homes, painting over graffiti, painting schools, assisting the elderly and widows with home improvement projects, cleaning up community gardens, renovating a community library and a host of other projects. Over 50 projects were carried out by Celebration members on SERVE DAY.
Tony Leverett, community pastor at Celebration Church, said each year the church hosts an outreach event and felt called to help an area who residents were strong and resilient, but needed the support of the congregation to help rebuild their community.
The stories of those the congregation assisted, Leverett said, were inspiring.
“We had one lady we partnered with whose son was murdered just after Hurricane Katrina,” Leverett said. “She had yet to have her home rebuilt after the storm because of lack of funds. We partnered with her and hung a ton sheetrock and insulated the home, which is a significant milestone in the rebuilding process.”
As a result of the day of service, some of the church’s Life Groups have decided to hold similar projects in their communities.
For many in the church, this was their first time to participate in a service project. Some of the congregation’s Life Groups even have decided to hold a similar outreach in their community.
Prayer was a critical part of the day, Leverett said. To that end, members of a prayer team prayed throughout the time the event was happening.
While the work in the Desire community and Lower Ninth Ward was only open to those second grade and older, the church offered service opportunities that day for those younger who were in childcare. The children helped wipe down the equipment in the play area at the church’s Metairie campus.
“The kids were telling us they were able to clean up,” Leverett said. “The value of serving was being instilled within them.”
For those wanting to take part in their own day of service like First Baptist Pineville, First Baptist Lafayette and Celebration Church held, interested churches should contact their associational offices, Jenkins said.
Director of missions in each association will assign an individual or team who will then coordinate the day of service with all churches in that association.
For more information, contact your local association or the LBC Evangelism Team office at 800-622-6549.
“Participating associations will be enlisting churches, helping to coordinate events planned by churches,” Jenkins said. “This is a concept for the multitude to show acts of kindness to their neighbors. That love shown to them can open the gospel and transform their community forever.”