Andrew Carr, Outreach Director at the Hammond Campus, and Josh Evans, Oakleaf Connections Pastor, recently came together to develop a very creative method to reach and connect with people moving to our community. The ingenious idea was the creation of a “new move-in bag.” What better way to welcome new families to our area than with a thoughtful and useful gift? Research indicates that literally hundreds of families move to our area each year and the new home construction around us bears this out.
Beginning with our official Trinity logo gift bags (that was the easy part), the team explored many ideas to make a successful outreach tool. The result was to place a small potted succulent plant in the bag as a gift, as well as information about our church and a note of welcome to the community.
Assembly lines began putting together the bags, and the next step was creating a plan to distribute them. So, how did this unfold? Announcements during services invited our church family to participate by picking up gift bags to deliver to their new neighbors. Word was spread on social media. Trinity’s members were eager to participate, and bags were quickly picked up after church, far exceeding our expectations. Our people were so energized that multiple bags were taken, and our teams were pressed into producing more bags than were originally anticipated.
explains Josh. “It didn’t take a lot of convincing because our people, our church family, are passionate about outreach. It was encouraging to see everyone excited to get involved.”
In the short span of a few weeks, over 300 gift bags have been distributed. Many receiving the gift bags have called to say thanks and to ask for information about our church. Andrew and Josh believe this will result in further interest over the coming months, and that the effect will be long term as families settle in and look for a church home or perhaps have a need.
In terms of numbers, this campaign appears successful. However, the greatest success might be seeing so many people in our church engaged in connecting with those outside our church. Andrew sums it up this way,
“Success is not really how many bags were distributed, but it’s God’s people stepping up, stepping out, to show the love of Jesus to our community. We’d love to see everyone in our church mobilized as the hands and feet of Jesus so that those we encounter will say, ‘Wow, those people really care’.”
The death of George Floyd at the hands of police is deeply disturbing and also reinforces the fear that justice is not always applied equally among people of color. We pray that justice will be pursued quickly and fairly.
It is important to acknowledge our appreciation for law enforcement that put their lives on the line, sacrificially and in service of others, but at the same time we need to be grieved when the use of force goes too far. It is particularly egregious when the use of force is somehow applied based on color of skin. These are conversations that we must have and we must be willing to listen to the experiences, fears, and concerns of those that believe that there is not equal treatment or protection under the law.
The scriptures could not be more clear about the fact that human beings are distinct in the fact that they are made in the image of God. All humans, male and female, regardless of ethnicity, color, and age are image bearers of God and are valued and loved by Him – equally. We must, along with scripture, both Old and New Testament, condemn murder, injustice, and mistreatment of others, particularly the most vulnerable among us. Today, we grieve with those that grieve, we weep with those that weep, and we long for and work toward a world that values all human beings and is fair and just for everyone.
I believe that words are not enough in this moment and that our church must find ways to work toward racial reconciliation that reflects our deeply held gospel beliefs.
– Pastor Tom Messer