Community Heroes Sunday
By Chuck Warnock
“Thank you for doing this. We usually don’t get much appreciation.”
That’s how a police officer expressed his thanks to Mulberry Grove Baptist Church at its “Community Heroes Sunday,” the brain-child of Pastor Michael Jordan, who wondered how he could reach out to first-responders in h s community including law enforcement, the rescue squad and the local fire department. The Buckingham, Va., church had successfully honored educators on special Sundays in the past, but it wanted to recognize a group often overlooked—public-safety personnel.
Borrowing the strategy from its “Teacher Appreciation Sundays,” the members of Mulberry Grove Baptist planned to reach out to the county sheriff’s department, the local state police unit and the volunteer rescue squad and fire department. In response to the invitations, 30 community heroes attended the event.
“The best part was it gave me a great excuse to go and talk to people,” Jordan says.
Here’s How They Did It
Personal invitations. Jordan visited the fire chief, chief of police, head of the state police unit and director of the rescue squad, giving them printed invitations for their personnel. To keep costs down, the church created the invitations in-house, but the pastor’s personal visit made them special. Local newspaper coverage of the upcoming event provided additional publicity.
Uniform recognition. Jordan invited community heroes to attend the event in uniform. “Me kids thought it was so cool that police officers came in their uniforms, complete with their badges and gunbelts,” notes Jordan, whose 4-year-old son was especially impressed.
Service celebration. During the worship service, Jordan publicly acknowledged all of the community heroes and their families. Guests filled out cards to registerto win special gifts; the cards also helped the church compile a list for follow-up correspondence. Worship included special music and a reading honoring the valuable the contribution of hometown heroes.
Hospitality lunch. At a lunch after the service, the community heroes rook the first places in line. Jordan drew from the guests’ registration cards collected during the service for special gifts, most of which were donated by local businesses.
Follow-up correspondence. Jordan wrote a personal thank-you letter to each guest, and to those who marked “no church preference” on their registration cards, he sent a special invitation to return to Mulberry Grove.
According to Jordan, the cost for the event was less than $100, and the church responded positively. “Our members were proud we had honored these unsung heroes,” he says. Guests’ comments expressed appreciation for the church’s thoughtfulness, as well.
Community heroes deserve recognition from churches. Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays might seem like logical times to celebrate their service. However, many first-responders work extra hours on holidays, so other Sundays might he better. Whenever you schedule your “Community Heroes Sunday,” plan ahead and make it a personal event that shows you notice and appreciate the work they’re doing and care about them as individuals.
Idea: Motorcycle Sunday
By Heather Johnson
A rider himself, Pastor Randy Schoof wanted his church, 175-attendee Warehouse Church in Aurora, III., to host an outreach that would connect with other motorcycle enthusiasts. The solution? Motorcycle Sunday, an all-day event held the last Sunday of April that each year includes heavy metal music, a short evangelistic message, a “bike blessing” and a 60-mile ride.
“We wanted to give people who normally wouldn’t darken a church door a little taste of what it is to worship God … with-out being churchy,” Schoof says. And on Motorcycle Sunday, this includes the rev of engines and some wind in the hair.
How To Do It
* Locate a large parking lot in which to host the event. Depending on the size of your community and church, your own parking lot may be big enough. When Warehouse’s event outgrew its lot, they moved it to a nearby public park.
* Begin volunteer sign-ups three to four months in advance. Have teams serve coffee and donuts, direct bikers where to park, set up and rake down the stage and sound system and pray with bikers during the blessing.
* Print fliers and distribute to local motorcycle organizations.
* Secure music—the Warehouse uses its own musicians and hands—and local motorcycle shops to set up booths to sell biker clothing and gear.
* Ask local food shops for donations and invite them to be lunch vendors (pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers).
* On the day of the event, give out prizes; ideas include CDs of participating hands and T-shirts from vendors.
* During the bike blessing, ask the pastor to lead a prayer that first thanks God for the event and motorcycles, then asks for protection on the road and finally that everyone would have experiences to help them recognize the presence of God in their lives.
* Invite hikers to return to the church for fellowship after the 60-mile ride.
Plan on $1,000 for a covered festival stage and $500 for printing materials. If church hands are riot playing, you’ll have to pay for music. Warehouse borrowed a member’s sound system.
In six years, Warehouse’s event has grown from 200 bikes to between 400 and 450, totaling around 600 people.
“We have many who come to the event each year. Some came one or two years, were comfortable with who we were and what we were about and finally accepted Christ the third year,” explains Schoof. “It’s really about not being too pushy and forceful. We’re authentic, telling people that we’re all sinners and we’re all pretty screwed up and in need of a Savior.”
The article “Community Heroes Sunday” written by Chuck Warnock and the article “Idea: Motorcycle Sunday” written by Heather Johnson are excerpted from Outreach Magazine the May/June 2008 edition.