hat happens when a church decides to blanket its
community with neighborhood Bible clubs? Children and adults learn
scripturesome for the first time. Many come to a saving knowledge of Jesus and
look to the sponsoring church for leadership in their familys life. The members
neighborhoods witness a model for the Christian life. And the leaders are
blessed and their lives enriched by participation in an on mission
event that can impact a community for years to come.
Heres how one church committed time and resources to neighborhood Bible
clubs and experienced the blessings of growing its leaders, publicizing its
activities and expanding its membership.
Nuts and boltsFor one week last summer more than 100
members and regular attenders of Sugarloaf Community Church in Suwanee,
Georgia, went outside the four walls of their church and into the communities
around it presenting "A Taste of Sugarloaf." The event was designed to promote a sense of
community while exposing children and adults to the Bible with enjoyable
activities such as crafts, songs and games. The underlying message, of course,
was that this kind of learning and fun are available at Sugarloaf Community
The week included two events planned to complement each other:
Neighborhood Bible clubs and block parties, designed for ages 5 to 12, met
in five communities on four mornings during the week from 9 to 11:30 a.m. They
were designed to teach children the truths of scripture right in their own
neighborhood. Each of the five neighborhoods had its own Bible club team led by
a leader who lived in the community. Teams consisted of 10 adults and youth,
ranging from Bible teachers and crafts coordinator to preschool caregiver and
One night during the week in each of the five communities the church
sponsored a neighborhood block party to give families the opportunity to get
out of the kitchen and spend an evening getting to know their neighbors.
The block partieswhich began on Wednesday and ran through
Fridayalso offered parents a chance to meet members of Sugarloaf Com-munity
Church, people who had been working with their kids in the morning Bible clubs
and others who came to help with the party. Two block party teamscomplete with
grills, cooks, emcees, face painters, set-up and decorating teams, sound
technicians and plenty of serversworked with the slogan "Have partywill
travel." During the parties, the neighborhood Bible club teams were free to
mingle and meet parents and others from the neighborhood because the block
party teams were responsible for the nuts and bolts of the event.
Keys to successBut the real key to the success of the
week was publicity and prayer. Two weeks prior to the event, church membersled
by the neighborhood team leadersprayerwalked the neighborhoods. Then on the
Saturday prior to the event, teams again prayerwalked the neighborhoods,
putting flyers on mailboxes and talking to people about the Bible clubs and
block parties. During the week each neighborhood had its own team of 8-10
people who focused entirely on prayer for their neighborhood.
Its not just for kidsAs great as the results of the
outreach were, the changes it made in participants were equally exciting.
Brenda was a regular attender at Sugarloaf but was never really involved
because of her work schedule. However, she had such a desire to serve that when
she heard about the neighborhood block parties she was one of the first to
volunteer. As a result of the week, she became more involved in the church,
developed friendships, renewed her commitment to the Lord and eventually signed
up for a new members class. Her daughtera single momstarted coming to the
church as well and soon committed to follow Christ.
Ken is a young businessman at Sugarloaf who was already growing as a
Christian and is a leader in the childrens ministry. His work schedule allowed
him some flexibility to be involved in the neighborhood Bible clubs. The fact
that his wife, Susan, was the neighborhood Bible club team leader added a
At the end of the week Ken said: "You know, this is really what its all
about. Weve seen kids come to Christ and some of the families have said theyre
going to visit our church. And weve glorified God outside the four walls of the
church. I think weve done what Jesus wants us to do."
Today Ken is preparing for full-time ministry.
On mission resultsBy the end of the week,
about 90 children had participated in the Bible clubs and more than 150
families outside of the church had been touched through either the Bible clubs
or the block parties. When we looked back over the events, heres what we
learned and recommend:
Start early. The game plan for your neighborhood Bible
clubs and block parties should be developed at least three months prior to the
event. This allows time for contacting homeowners associations, developing
prayer teams, gathering curriculum material, recruiting staff for the Bible
club and block party teams, as well as securing assistance from corporate
Involve the homeowners associations. Contact them through a
church member in the association and provide them with information about the
Bible clubs and block parties. Usually a brochure on the church and a general
cover letter providing an overview of the event is sufficient. Emphasize ways
the homeowners association might benefit from the event, such as establishing a
neighborhood watch program or introducing the associations officers.
Occasionally someone will raise the question of the separation of church and
state. Explain to them that legally the issue is freedom of assembly rather
than church-state since the state is not involved.
Try to have at least two church families within a targeted
neighborhood. Children attract children, and there is a certain
affinity that develops between parents as well. Synergy is created when there
are two or more families from the church in a neighborhood.
Involve area businesses. This is an opportunity for them to
support churches and neighborhoods in the community, not to mention benefit
from some publicity. The businesses that supported "A Taste of Sugarloaf"
ranged from a bank that supplied a grill to a Christian bookstore that gave
door prizes for the block parties. And dont overlook your local grocery store.
The savings can be significant.
Develop contingency plans. Keep in mind that Murphys Law is
still valid. Sugarloaf volunteers prayed for clear skies and got themalong with
morning temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. But they adapted and moved Bible
story time to the neighborhood pool and games took on an aquatic theme as
"Marco Polo" became "Jonah and the Whale."
Focus on the event and the follow-up. One of the greatest
struggles can be in following up. When you invest so much time and effort into
the week itself, you can be exhausted when it comes time to follow up. Churches
that invest in such an endeavor need to conserve some resources for activities
such as analyzing how the week went (and making notes for next year) and
calling on neighbors who expressed an interest in the church. Consider
designating two team leaders in each neighborhoodone to lead in preparing the
team for the event and carrying it out and another to coordinate the
neighborhood follow-up through cards, phone calls and personal visits.
Set a realistic budget and know that the investment will pay off
through the years. Overall the week cost Sugarloaf approximately
$2,000 (or about $400 per neighborhood). But during the week several children
gave their lives to Christ, and quite a few families visited the church after
having experienced "A Taste of Sugarloaf." Its amazing what God does when a
church starts taking Him to the community.
John Howard lives in Sugar Hill, Georgia.
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