Be “The String” That Brings Community
Last year, I shared the idea of partnering with Jubilee REACH (a local ministry partner) and a few other local ministries to host a Free Community Easter Egg Hunt. Brent Christie (the Executive Director of JR) nearly leapt out of his seat with excitement! He smiled and then remarked, "Warren, you and Essential Church are like the little piece of string that brings together the large pieces of fabric." I think he may be on to something. We knew we didn't have the people, money or resources to pull off a large-scale event like a Free Community Easter Egg Hunt. It would take a small army to make this event a success, so we began reaching out to other organizations that we had built relationships/partnerships with to see if they would join us in bringing the vision to reality! We were overjoyed to see a local Christian camp, another church plant, the Boys and Girls Club, Youth For Christ, and others jump on board, bringing resources, volunteers, and promotional bandwidth to the event. In our first attempt, we were blown away by the response as over 1,000 people attended the event! In the process, "community" happened!
Our city got a small glimpse of what true community looks like. Guests of all colors, languages and backgrounds were able to see volunteers of all colors, languages and backgrounds working together to serve and love their neighbors. Parents saw the smiles of their precious children as they got their faces painted, the sparkle in their eyes when they took pictures with the Easter Bunny, the joy in their voices when they showed off their Easter eggs and the spring in their step as they bounced on the inflatables! In the middle of it all was the church... that is, the people of God; serving food, welcoming guests, taking photos and giving permission for everyone to feel like a community.
After last year’s tremendous response, we moved our location down the street to Lake Hills Elementary School to accommodate a larger crowd. We debriefed and brainstormed ways to improve the experience and we continued to reach out to community partners to join us in this endeavor. In 2015, we had over 1,800 people in attendance! Unlike other egg hunts in the area, where people come, get their eggs and leave, we registered every person in attendance so that we could follow up with them with periodic emails, we gave them a free hot dog and drink, free face painting, carnival games, and of course, photos with the Easter bunny! Most people who came for the eggs, stayed for the community, which created a higher relational connection between the church and the community. Every person who registered was given a nice looking plastic bag filled with information about Essential Church and the other organizations that partnered with us.
In retrospect, if I were still on staff at a larger church, I might have decided that we had all of the money, volunteers and resources to pull this event off on our own. It would be our event, with our name on it, and it would have been another successful big church event in the books. But, as a very small church plant, we experienced the incredible joy of being “the string” that brought the whole community together, and in our humility, God lifted us up as an example of community and partnership amongst our partners and our neighbors. Any of us can be the "little string" that brings people together when we serve, reach out to others and give without concern for what we will get in return. The end result is a beautiful patchwork quilt that we call "community."