As the holiday season approaches, many congregations seek to bring cheer to others around them. One of the ways congregations traditionally help is to provide gifts or goods to families who may not be able to afford them. An Indiana congregation, in the process of a multi-year journey to understanding how to serve its community, took some time to think through this process and change their approach a bit.
“In the past, we have ‘sponsored’ families at Christmastime. This has meant we buy gifts and gift cards for them, go to their house with some kind of celebration, and deliver presents to the family. What we learned… is that parents, typically fathers, who are present in such a family situation encounter embarrassment and shame for not providing the gifts,” a congregational leader explained.
Last year, in place of their old format, the congregation hosted a Christmas Shop with other congregations in the area. The churches purchased nice, new gifts, and families had the opportunity to go to the shop and purchase them at garage sale prices. This new process provided assistance while still allowing the families to purchase their own gifts for their children. If someone wants to participate, but still cannot afford gifts, they can work for the shop to earn money.
This congregation took a team of staff and laity to the national conference of the Christian Community Development Association. The team learned a great deal about what it means to serve those around them. Team members also worked through an extensive reading list to better understand the landscape of serving others. This has led to a holistic change in not only action, but also attitude towards those they want to serve.
Big changes can take place from small investments in learning and collaboration with those within our own congregations. When a congregation desires change, invests in knowledge outside of themselves and invites broad participation, great things can, and often do, happen.
Reach out to your local Center for Congregations representative, and let’s have a conversation about what’s going on in your congregation. Let us help you find some of the outside expertise that will help you unlock your congregation’s potential.