December 14, 2017

Open Mic at the iMonk Cafe: Missional Christmas

scroogeToday’s Open Mic question is posed by guest blogger, Chaplain Mike Mercer.

With all the talk these days of “missional” churches, this Christmas season might be a good time to take the ministry temperature of the churches represented by our readers here at Internet Monk.

What, if anything, is your church doing during the holidays to reach beyond its walls and serve your neighbors in the community? Any special evangelistic efforts? Special ministries of caring for the poor and needy? Special efforts to visit those who are elderly, sick, shut-in, or confined in facilities? Special programs organized for the express purpose of blessing your neighbors or community?

It’s OK to talk about what you are doing in the church building if it is focused on those who don’t normally attend. For example, we recently took part in a program in my brother-in-law’s church in Nashville that houses homeless folks overnight in the winter, providing a meal, hot showers, and a “store” through which they might get clothing and other necessities free. That’s the kind of ministry I’m talking about—but if it is a Christmas program or concert that is simply advertised to the public, that doesn’t count for the purposes of our discussion here.

How is your church being missional this Christmas?

Comments

  1. Among other things our church has concentrated on a people group in our city called Mextico. They are indeginious of southen Mexico and speak neither english nor spanish. This group lives in various housing projects scattered throughout the city. We have enrolled over 40 Mextico children in our AWANA program, do tutoring through a church plant , have plans for ELS classes, This year we are throwing a Christmas party for the kids and members of our church are buying presents – toys, clothes, etc..

  2. Dan Allison says:

    We’re a neighborhood church. It doesn’t feel like we do much, but if every church did the same kind of things, every neighborhood could be reached.

    We provide food baskets to needy people and families in our neighborhood. There’s no paperwork, all hey have to do is ask. Many of the baskets reach folks who might be reticent, embarrassed, or too proud to approach bureaucratic “food programs” and many of the requests are from third parties who know someone who needs help.

    To fund the baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas, back in October we had a combined concert/yard sale/crafts fair/car wash and blood drive. This let us bless our neighborhood with great music, beauty and art. We raised $900 for our food baskets that day with four bands who played for free. Our youths raised another $200 with their car wash, 18 people donated blood, and the children were blessed by a clown and juggler.

    We also have a fledgling bicycle ministry. We seek used bikes and bike parts, and one of our deacons repairs them and spiffs them up, and we give the adult bikes to homeless persons and the children’s bikes to needy familes.

    We have a monthly family movie night and free dinner. Admittedly, the children’s movies don’t do much for adults, but the dinners are free and open to all.

    Again, it’s not much, and it doesn’t reach much beyond our neighborhood. We’re a small church typically running at a deficit, but it’s what we can do.

  3. aaron arledge says:

    Our small rural church has adopted 5 families that can not afford gifts for their kids this year. We are buying them presents and hosting a dinner for them next Sunday night. We are also pretty much remodeling a home for an elderly lady. I was very proud of us doing 136 operation Christmas child boxes. that equaled almost three boxes per regular attender.

  4. as a body we are providing funding to another church an hour north of us that is reaching the cities population of migrant workers. we also are involved in typical christmas activities like angel tree and the distribution of food baskets.

    most of our missional activity happens through our small groups. many of our groups “adopt” several local families and provide whatever they need for christmas. sometimes it’s meals, sometimes clothes or gifts for the children.

  5. We’re making gift boxes for fixed-income residents of a nearby retirement community, collecting donations to a local food bank, and providing hats and gloves to the kids who attend our homework help ministry. Most of them live in public housing, which is right behind the church.

    I’m probably missing one or two, but that’s the general feel of things.

  6. My home church puts on a big Christmas production each year (3 nights, Fri, Sat, and Sun), with a “Christmas carnival” on the church property before each show (free hot dogs, nachos, funnel cakes, cookies, horse-drawn carriage rides, pictures with Santa, pony rides, etc.). Free to the community. But then during intermission, we promote a community project, allowing both our church people and guest to contribute. In the past, projects have been: survival kits for the homeless (backpacks with thermal heat-reflecting blankets, extra socks, coats), new shoes for school kids in the projects, bikes for kids in poor neighborhoods.

    This year we partnered with Stuff the Sleigh, a program that provides Christmas presents for foster children around the state, many of whom wouldn’t have presents otherwise because they enter the foster care system in the weeks before Christmas and their foster parents had not budgeted for extra children. One of the pastors and volunteers from the church manned toy donation stations outside area Wal-Mart stores M-F last week, and last Fri-Sun at all 3 play presentations an offering was received for Stuff the Sleigh. Sunday night the church presented the directors of the program with a check for over $15,000.

    The Spanish-language church I help out at is doing an outreach in a mobile home park in a rough part of town this Saturday, giving away toys to all the kids that live in the trailers.

  7. Shouldn’t the question be “How is HIS Church being missional this Christmas” not “How is YOUR church being missional this Christmas?”

    We as HIS Body are all in this together. Where is the unity in that question? or am I reading it wrong? (that is probably the case)

    Swanny

    • Sometimes, we find out how “HIS Church” is doing by looking at all the ways that congregations of Christians are working in their own, particular spaces, places, and times. The unity comes from the aggregation of efforts.

      My particular local congregation supports so much stuff I can’t keep track of it all. We’re making up food baskets for families who need them (had to ask for more names from the sponsoring agency). Doing an Angel Tree for children of prisoners, so they get a gift from their parents. Sent boxes through Operation Christmas Child. Contributing to a local children’s home. There’s a lot of quiet giving, that is done by individuals or small groups with a particular heart for a particular need.

      Alison

  8. “His” church has local expressions all over the world. “Your” church doesn’t mean it belongs to you, it means the local congregation of which you are a part.

    Come on Swanny. You’re better than that.

  9. This is one of the areas that the Catholic Church (at least in Ireland, or at least locally, which is what I can best attest to) does fall down on.

    We don’t have the same range of ministries and programmes to get people signed up and involved. There used to be the tradition of Sodalities and Confraternities and the like, but (as with so many things post-Vatican II, and this is not an anti-Vatican II rant, this is more the spirit of the times) these have fallen by the wayside. I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw the Children of Mary meeting (sometime way back in the 80s and that was the few elderly ladies with no new recruits); it was like pulling teeth to get people to join the Legion of Mary (when my mother was involved and no, I didn’t join myself) and all the other societies have suffered likewise.

    The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is the most active one still going, and we do have the annual collection taken up at the Mass this week. There will be the annual Senior Citizens’ Dinner in January. There is the annual Sale of Work in support of the missions. But there isn’t really a “Right, everyone who wants to sign up for the Sick Visiting Team leave your name in to the Parish Office and we’ll meet every Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.” kind of organisation.

    People are of course encouraged to visit the sick, the elderly, and to have concern for their neighbours as part of a Christian life, but this is more of a private effort or ‘join the Vincent de Paul/Legion of Mary’ rather than a series of ministries run from and by the church.

    There has been a move to have more lay involvement, but people still tend to leave ‘that kind of thing’ up to the priest, or do things off their own bat (e.g. visit and look after an elderly relative or neighbour) and not as a community.

    The concept of “fellowshipping” is a very alien one. Bible Studies and Sunday Schools and all that – more Protestant notions than Catholic, round here! And that is the element I do envy from your side of the house 🙂

  10. I appreciate your point that a single one off “christmas event” is not really very missional.

  11. Our church (SBC) was a few members short of a full choir, so we formed an associational Christmas choir from all the southern baptist churches in the area, and instead of singing in church, we took our production to prisons, shopping malls, and old folks homes all around our area.

    We are sending our pastor to India to throw a Christmas party at the leper colony where he has planted a church.

  12. Our Catholic parish works co-operatively with about four other churches of various denominations in order to identify and help families going through difficult times this winter. So, I guess this is a venture into ‘ecumenical missional work’. The recipients just know that ‘some Christian people’ cared for them in His Name. I love this.

  13. We’re pretty new and pretty small, but what we’ve decided to do is send all the offerings for this week to a local ministry that feeds the poor. This particular ministry has almost no overhead for itself; all the money will go directly to food for the local poor.

  14. dan macdonald says:

    Our church did several things.

    First, we hosted a Christmas party for the kids in the housing development about 5 blocks form our church. We run a program after school for them on Wednesdays, but the Xmas party invited their families as well.

    Second, with the Salvation Army, we hosted an event called Christmas in Canada, where immigrant families were treated to a full Christmas dinner. Each table was one immigrant family and one ‘host’ group; our church hosted 11 tables for these newcomers to our city.

    Third, the whole church donated food, clothing and supplies and created 22 backpacks for the homeless; sort of a supply kit to help them survive our Toronto winters. Then 40 of us went to the streets and, in partnership with two shelters who helped us to locate where they were living, we, located and gave out the backpacks to those living on the streets.

    Finally, we hosted a musical theatre performance called 2000 Candles that satirically pokes fun at the corruption of Christmas by ‘Christendom’ over the last 2000 years, and yet proclaims the truth that God became one of us. About 120 people from the community came to that event, which was run by professional actors and musicians.

    It was a full and great Christmas.

  15. 1) Hosting a homeless shelter for two weeks on our parish hall and 2) collecting toiletries and other personal items (socks, etc.) for those who are transitioning out of prison.

  16. Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    • “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

      • Exactly. Let the DEEDS shine out for all to see…..NOT bringing attention to those deeds yourself.

        “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.”

        • Christiane says:

          So, Jeff,
          you yourself must donate privately and anonymously?
          Don’t you ever work with a group of people ‘in community’ for someone in need?
          Or do you refrain from helping on the grounds that somehow, you might receive ‘credit’ for your help?
          If the latter is true, you can relax, the people getting the help are not going to ‘turn you in’ to the Lord. They are hurting and need help. That is what they are dealing with.
          You can make a difference for them or not. Don’t worry, It’s not about ‘you’ and ‘credit’, it’s about ‘them’. Forget about yourself and go to work. This is the season of blessings.

          • There is a great difference between humbly working with one another to meet the needs of others and broadcasting what one has done on the internet. The former is between those that you work with, and the recipient themselves. If the recipient wants to give thanks publicly, that is their prerogative.

          • Louis Winthrop says:

            If we are really motivated by concern for others, and not out of desire for spiritual benefit for ourselves, then maybe–as a gesture of renunciation–we ought to trumpet our good deeds, and so forfeit any hope of personal spiritual gain.

            Go Pharisees!

    • OK, but we’re talking about ministries of whole churches, not individuals …

      • And the difference would be????? How does the biblical principle change from individual to church?

        • The question was asked, “What is your church doing?” and people are answering. That’s quite different from an individual or church issuing a press release to the media about what they’re doing, or creating the blog post in the first place to brag on themselves.

          I think what’s going on here falls into the category of “spurring one another on toward love and good deeds” by letting us see what others are doing to reach out so we can all gain ideas for future community projects.

        • Jeff, no one is asking folks to brag on themselves here. I thought it might be an encouragement to see what the Spirit is leading his people to do in various churches to help others, that’s all. And by the way, it was me who asked; this post didn’t originate from self-righteous people trying to shine a spotlight on themselves.

          Lord knows, I give enough criticism to the church for it flaws and failures. Let me give people a chance to point to something positive for once, OK?

          Sheesh…

        • The difference is: (1) an individual and a church are not the same sort of entity; (2) Jesus was clearly discussing individuals. He’s telling individuals not to puff themselves up in displays of public righteousness. There seems to be no condemnation here for a church discussing its ministries publicly, or with Christians discussing good ideas for ministry. The circumstances, intent, and effect are totally different.

          Your suggestion seems like it would be hard to put into practice. How does a church runs its ministries secretly? We could tell all our secret members to attend secret meetings about secret ministries supported by secret money … but then we’d be a secret society and therefore cannon fodder for the next Nicolas Cage blockbuster. :p

          • You have mistaken “not broadcasting” or “not proclaiming” with doing something “secretly” Let the recipients proclaim and broadcast your good deeds, if they need broadcasting at all.

          • OK gang, we’ve come to the end of this side road. Those who think we’re disobeying Scripture, just drop out. We’ll carry on without you. I feel no need to justify the post any longer.

            To make myself clear: no more comments on this part of the discussion will be accepted.

  17. The youth are delivering gift baskets to our ill members who don’t get out much. We have a gift tree and folks donate lap ropes, slippers etc. which the youth will deliver to a nursing home Christmas Eve. We sing Christmas Carols to shut in members. A food pantry operates out of our back door year round. We try to make the offerings a bit better in November and December. We offer a free Christmas Concert (no sermon) to members, friends and the community.

  18. Every year on Christmas, the church I attend provides a meal for homeless people in Mission Bay (San Diego). Unfortunately, I’m usually visiting family on Christmas (my family lives in the Bay Area).

    I don’t know if this counts, but the Bible study I lead did a Christmas potluck and invited non Christians to attend.

  19. On behalf of our church (which is more like a Bible study), I made cookie packages and delivered to the staff at the Post Office and put one package in the mailbox for our mail carrier and delivered packages to our neighbors. It’s not really a church-wide event and doesn’t broadcast our church name, but it does show Jesus’ love to others. After all, WE are the church and when we do kind things for regular people in town and in our neighborhoods, that is JESUS.

  20. Our {Orthodox} church has a year round ministry feeding the homeless, but during advent they have a Christmas dinner at the church for all the families that have been served throughout the year. There are gifts for the children.

    We are a large parish by OCA standards, between 150-200, but minuscule by broader American Evangelical standards. I have to admit that the real work is done by about 25-30 people.

  21. I just moved to a new ministry assignment in Cincinnati, OH – Southern Baptist Church. We are gave fruit baskets to the shut in (i.e., about 40 baskets) and food will be given to about 100 people in the community via the pantries. However, I look forward to us doing much more in the future.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi Dr. Baines,

      Two years ago, I worked for a school system that had a ‘contest’ to see how many baskets could be assembled and given out to those in need in neighborhoods that surrounded the schools.
      My school won the contest.
      Here’s the kicker:
      My school was the one where seventeen bus-loads of project children came each day.
      Our children were considered ‘at risk’.
      And yet, in spite of their poverty, or maybe because they understood about need, our children provided in abundance for people less fortunate than themselves.
      I loved that school. It was like a family. The children taught me well in that place about how to be a better person.

  22. Our church handed out about 140 blankets to the homeless a few weeks ago. One of the members is a musician and he produced a CD of original material which he is selling; the proceeds will be used to buy gifts for a group of children that would otherwise not recieve any. The church is also performing “A Christmas Carol” with non-perishables for admission donated to the local food pantry.

  23. One new ministry our fellowship did this year was to purchase small Christmas trees from a local craft store, decorate them with small ornaments, and then take them to our shut-ins, particularly those who were unlikely to have their own tree (nursing homes, hospitals, etc.) Very positive response and a great way to make it a little more homelike for the holidays.

  24. great post chaplain Mike….you are my favorite Pharisee 🙂 seriously, I got several great ideas, my fave was the backpacks/survival kits for the homeless, and the fact that they went out and found folks to give them to; that’s a simple, practical, Jesus-looking idea.

    Great work, thanks for giving your time this Christmas season to the I-Monk family.
    Greg R

  25. Every year our small congregation “adopts” several families from our community who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves going without at Christmas. It is our joy to provide gifts for all the family members, all the makings for a Christmas dinner, gift cards, winter clothing–whatever they need.

    We deliver to each of these families in person, which usually results in the opportunity to sit over coffee and get to know each other. And this is the greatest gift we can give–relationships.

    Jesus does not give us stuff…He gives us Himself!

  26. Steve Newell says:

    One question that I have: When you serve those in need, do you bring the Gospel of Christ of the forgiveness of sins? I believe that we are called to serve others and what I have read is great, but is the Gospel at the center of what we do and does those whom we serve know this?

  27. Cliff Williams says:

    Giving and serving…are not seasonal. Your church organization can not serve in your stead ie my church has outreach to…The question is, What are you doing…outside the walls…regularly?

    The answer is putting yourself amongst those in need regularly…then you well become a go-to-person for them. Oh, by the way, others (Christians) will refer them to you – to avoid the personal complications – when you show yourself to be the “sucker”…isn’t this what we fear?

  28. We are baking cookies and other treats and taking them around to all the people who are working – policemen, firemen, convenience store, grocery, etc – offering to pray with them and just bring some well wishes and thanks for working on Christmas.

  29. Our small church is raising money to build two water wells in third world countries in villages/communities that lack clean water. We are also recapturing Christmas a bit from the crazy consumerism and theatre versions by doing some of the things listed at adventconspiracy.org. The story of God with us is the greatest story ever told, but so often it gets lost in the noise.

    I agree we should give and serve all year, and we do. But at Christmas we have the attention, however slight, of many who ignore the church the rest of the year. Thus this is a time to tell the story not just in word, but also in deed and in heart and with our lives.

  30. My church recently agreed to make our facilltiy available to Celebrate Recovery to hold their dinners and meetings every Friday evening. As addictions counselor, I am really excited to see this recourse being made available. I live in a very small very rural area with a very high rate of addiction and alcoholism. What a cool way to see the hands of Christ being extended.
    I’m hoping this can be included because we decided to commit to this during the Christmas season.

  31. I’d like to thank the Christians out there who are helping the poor by making my ex-pastor’s life a living hell because she supports health care reform. In this season of waiting for the Christchild, being scared to leave the house with your children adds a little extra spice, doesn’t it?

    In the last week, two other pastors have told me they are considering moving out of this (red) state, prompted by the hate surrounding health care reform. That is disturbing, extremely.

    While nasty emails, confrontations in restaurants and ended friendships may seem like wonderful gifts for the liberals in your life, realize 1) there are probably 100 other people sending your pastor that same Obamacare message and 2) agree or disagree, they’re tired of it.

    Sorry for the downer but this entire thread struck me as perfect irony.

    • Very likely the people harassing your ex-minister’s wife are disturbed emotionally and cannot abide anyone disagreeing with them. These extreme right-wing ‘Christians’ are most likely not practicing Christians at all; just disturbed people who use religion as an excuse to justify ‘acting out ‘ on others as a result of oppositional personality disorder. But the extremists ARE ‘getting worse’, aren’t they? Yes, it is a bummer, but it should be discussed.

      • Sorry to hear that, Canada?. Do your best to support the guy and let us (internet strangers though we are) know if there’s anything we can do to help you both.

    • That is very sad, Canada?, that people are behaving in this hateful way. I can’t understand anyone calling themselves Christian and behaving so badly that others are in fear of them. It just does not compute for me at all.

    • I am sorry to read this, although I am not entirely surprised. I can understand, to a point, the opposition of Christians on the right to health care reform. I used to be one. I can understand the “liberal” advocacy of health care reform. I am one now.

      What I have a difficult time appreciating is the great anger being expressed in recent days. It’s not just people who are unbalanced acting this way: There’s an extremely vocal sub-section of people who are absolutely terrified of the proposed reforms and who are ready to see their intent and implications in the worst possible light. The specter of government health care has somehow ignited every bit of anti-liberal, anti-government, populist feeling on the right. In consequence, liberals are being confronted not as reformers with a bad ideas but as elites conspiring to strip every conservative of his freedoms and wreck the country.

      It’s very hard to respond to this kind of anger, when it pops up: there’s not much you can say to dispel it or to prove your innocence. I honestly don’t know what I would do if I were a pastor and many people were pressuring me with this rhetoric at the same time. (Probably I would preach a sermon about it and get kicked into the next county: perhaps this is why I am not a pastor!)

      So cheers to you and your friend. Please pass along my regards. I pray we’ll see passions cool down in the coming days … and perhaps some decent policy out of Washington.

  32. We haven’t done anything special for this Christmas. The year ended well though, our resources allowed us to help our needy members to jobs and shelter. We’ve got no money left to splash out on Christmas extravaganza and there was no need for food baskets either, which I think is a very positive sign for our community this year. May we do to others what we want others do to us. Peace!

  33. For Christmas, nothing special. But year-round our church hosts a food pantry that provided 628 boxes of food to 540 families; a total of over 14 tons of food provided by a rural church with an average attendance of 52.

    • Meant to say that these were the totals for November alone. We provide a worship service with communion prior to distribution, pray and establish relationships with the people we serve and help to get them involved in a church in the community. We strive to evangelize through discipleship.