North Burlington Baptist Church, Burlington, Ont.
Games, live music, outdoor movies, food trucks and local vendors from 5–9 p.m. on select Friday nights
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Wayne Dewhurst, associate pastor, explains:
We wanted to respond to the isolation epidemic in our culture of independence. So we expanded an annual fall event to year-round. We’ve created an outdoor space which is neutral and focused on a fun atmosphere. We call it Your Community Gathering.
Our church has been hosting a fall festival and occasional movie nights for over 20 years. We believe in connecting outside the church, and this community gathering lets us do so in a way that matters in our neighbourhood. We’re assuming up to 300 people will attend each gathering.
The city of Burlington and our church are establishing loving connections. We incorporate local food vendors who sell delicious treats. We have sponsors who are local businesses, and ministries who share our goal of making a positive impact on families and community members. Sponsors pay $250 to be part of all five events, and are promoted on our flyers and have a promo booth. Market vendors who typically sell a product or service pay per visit.
Our church and community volunteers are greeters, wear costumes for the kids, facilitate games, provide security and the glorious job of looking after washrooms. A prayer team covers the event in prayer a week before each event for a few hours and then prays individually for the event. Setup takes a few hours from 1–4 p.m., and at 5 p.m. we start pumping the music and playing icebreaker games. We encourage everyone to wear name tags as knowing a name is the first step to relationship. We play volleyball, tug of war, sack races, cornhole and plinko. We highlight sponsors with interviews from 5–7 p.m. We enjoy a movie or a live band from 7–9 p.m.
A successful event is good weather and neighbours connecting. You can often measure how meaningful it was by the followup texts, emails and social media messages saying thanks.
Some advice is to remember every church is different. Evaluate what God has brought you in personality, giftedness, land and relational equity. Be aware of the community around you. Visibility is important. Be intentional about the main purpose. For us, it’s less about the consumer hype and more about the loving connections we form. We are intentional about connecting people. We want people to know God created us for one another in relationship – both believers and nonbelievers.
For us, it’s less about the consumer hype and more about the loving connections we form.
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