How many times have you heard this story…
Our church, Spirit of Life, hosted a Christmas for Kids, Easter for Kids, or Vacation Bible School and had a bunch of children from the community show up. . .but nobody came to church after the events. We do all these events and sure, the kids learn about Jesus, but families aren’t joining our church and it doesn’t add to our membership numbers. For a new home mission church, it can be quite demoralizing to put in a ton of work, prayer, and volunteer hours and never see any fruits of labor.
In the early years at our mission in Caledonia, Mich., we experienced this same scenario and saw little progress. We went to parades and handed out 1000+ invites, but no one showed up. At our Easter for Kids event, right before COVID began, we had more than 200 kids in attendance. None of them would be able to attend a worship service.
Though this routine was disheartening at times, you keep planning and trying different things. You keep trying because you know that God tells us to, “Go and make disciples.” You find comfort in knowing that his Word will not return to him empty. You don’t know when the Spirit will allow faith to take root and grow.
Spirit of Life has grown over the years through personal evangelism efforts more than anything else, so I was never too excited for the bigger “outreach events.” But I know they present those opportunities for personal evangelism. So when we started working on a second site in Hastings, Mich., we thought, “Let’s try having a Christmas for Kids. There are a lot of kids near our venue.”
Sure enough, the event started as I had suspected. It was more work and less attendance than I would have hoped for. And I started to think. . . “You know, I can invite people personally with better results and less effort than this!”
One family, the Slagel’s and their three children, came to our event. They participated and had a lot of fun with their children. But what encouraged me the most was seeing the Slagel family the next Sunday morning. They had made the drive up to our Caledonia location and arrived for church an hour before the service started. They stayed and chatted with our members and are now going to be a part of our new church site in Hastings.
This story acts as a reminder to my missionary self that God works faith and does big things through his Word. Even when I think the hard work didn’t pay off.
Keep sharing the Word in season, out of season, at events, and individually. There’s no exact science to this mission work thing. In the end, it’s the Holy Spirit opening people’s hearts when and how he chooses. Stay humble, God works.
Written by Rev. Allen Kirschbaum, home missionary at Spirit of Life in Caledonia, Mich.
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