You can be a small fish and feed thousands of people!
No, I’m not talking about supernatural miracles or radioactive multiplication. I’m referring to the impact a small community of people can have on the greater society. But it takes courage, intentionality and thinking outside of yourself.
How can a small group of people make a significant and effective impact on the greater society?
I just came from the National Night Out in the town where I work. Hundreds of people flowed through the park where it was held. We gave away popcorn, talked with total strangers, interacted with city officials, police and emergency service personnel. We helped with raffles, give-aways and bounce houses. And we planned none of it! Too often I hear churches and small organizations lament not having the personnel to plan or implement events that connect them with the community. Too often I see churches plan and implement events that only service church members. In fact, I actually stopped doing an annual event years ago for this very reason. So, how can a small group of people make a significant and effective impact on the greater society? I have a suggestion.
When Jesus walked the earth, he didn’t set up a tent and hang a shingle. He went where the people were. He first tended to his own, the Jews, by attending synagogue. He reached the masses not with an invitation of, “Come and get it”, but a directive to his disciples of, “Go and get ‘em!” So, sending first the twelve (Matthew 10) and then the seventy-two (Luke 10), into the villages to share the good news of the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and freeing the demonized, the culture was engaged with the transforming message of the Gospel of the Kingdom. He was so effective in his “go and get ‘em” strategy that the people starting coming to him, en masse!
We, too, have opportunities to be effective, relevant and healthfully engaging - and we don’t have to plan any of them.
The opportunity was there, all we had to do was adjust our plans to suit them - and we didn’t have to compromise our message one ounce.
Today, a few adults and a gaggle of high school students came along side the National Night Out coordinators and helped them knock it out of the park! The opportunity was there, all we had to do was adjust our plans to suit them - and we didn’t have to compromise our message one ounce. We usually have group meetings this week, which in the summer attract about 100 students. Tonight, we engaged at least twice that. But it took the courage of canceling our planned meetings, intentionally connecting with the NNO coordinators and thinking outside of our little box. “Go and get ‘em” never looked so good!
For the church, “Come and get it” can no longer be the only ticket on sale. Some churches get this and are doing some amazing things. But many, especially those cemented in tradition and unimaginative vision, dwindle away as wonderful possibilities pass them by. I’m not patting myself on the back, not at all. But I am trying to dislodge a few from the quagmire of stagnancy that has gripped them and give some ideas of how to pull this off.
For the cost of a few boxes of popcorn, for which reimbursement was offered but refused (some organizations will gladly help you to help them) we had the best festival we could have! And, we helped them have the best event they could have. It was a win-win! Do you have a parking lot that can be used? Perhaps a few popup tents? A popcorn popper? Snow cone maker? Can you hand out bottles of water? Do you have a football lying around? Can you just show up and clean up? This isn’t rocket science, people!
So, Go and get ‘em! Look for opportunities planned by local organizations or city officials and come along side them. Have the courage to ask, “What can we do for you?” or “What do you need and how can we help?” Assist them in making their event the best it’s ever been. Not for the purpose of winning friends and influencing people, but for the goal of loving your neighbor. Put your agenda aside, but not your love for people, and become part of your community, in a healthy way. I’ll look for you by the popcorn machine!