By René Myers
In the words of Nat King Cole, “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”
Summer is upon us, typically a time of respite from normal routines and activities — school, work, church programs. This summer might not be quite so “lazy,” as the world is emerging from pandemic isolation now that the CDC has issued relaxed guidelines. “Crazy” may be a better descriptor this year, as people and families rush excitedly into vacations that have been long postponed.
Our churches have been challenged in ways we could scarcely have imagined just two years ago. Traditionally summer would be a more dormant time for church activities and programs. We might be planning for the upcoming fall kickoff, which would include our annual stewardship campaign. Truly this year is anything but traditional. How can we see with new eyes what God is inviting us to engage? What has the pandemic taught us? Our ministries and witness are not as tied to our buildings as we may have believed before. The realities of oppression and vulnerability of community members outside the doors of our churches have come into stark relief.
So, what might be helpful this summer as we look toward our stewardship campaigns this fall? Stewarding the resources that come to us is part of the work of the whole family of God for the common good of all. Using the summer to find creative ways to utilize our physical buildings for the common good of our communities — and highlighting that for our members and our communities — will demonstrate how we are living out the witness to the love and hope of Christ in our midst.
I recently had an inspiring conversation with Kevin Riley, commissioned pastor of Mount Baker Presbyterian Church in Concrete, Washington. This is a small, rural congregation in a community with high rates of poverty, homelessness and addiction. The congregation engages in ministries of feeding for the community by offering “all the fixins for a spaghetti dinner” to members of the community each Wednesday. As the school year winds down and they are seeing fewer people come for this sharing, they have “flipped,” Kevin’s word, their ministry to a pancake breakfast in the park. This has resulted in people volunteering to help — even people who are not affiliated with the church! Their outreach to the homeless population led to a new partnership with the County Health Department, through which a medically assisted drug treatment center was established in the church building. Kevin reached out to me for ideas of how their congregation could live into their Matthew 25 identity. I did offer examples of how other churches are engaged in similar ministries, but mostly I affirmed for Kevin and his congregation that they are deeply engaged in living out the gospel.
Perhaps you, too, could use this summer to highlight your congregation’s engagement in your community as one way to demonstrate your church’s faithful stewardship of the resources entrusted to it. Then, once those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are in your rearview mirror, come fall you could utilize those stories of community engagement as an integral part of your annual stewardship campaign to invite increased participation in God’s mission through the outreach of your church.
Now isn’t that good news?
René Myers is the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s mission engagement advisor for the West region.
Listen to a June 30 podcast featuring Kevin Riley. Hosted by Corey Schlosser-Hall, “On the Verge” is a series of conversations with people who take great ideas and turn them into something real!