Combine a highly visible intersection with one of the coldest winters in Chicago history and what you will see is a highly successful ice rink outreach at Lombard (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church. In its second year of operation, Corner Ice Rink is open during posted hours at no charge to church members and to those in the community—kids, teenagers, and families. Activities at the rink range from broomball to hockey to free skate.
The 80' x 50' ice rink is the brainchild of Wayne Postma, a member of Lombard CRC who grew up skating in Ontario, Canada. Postma said he saw the rink as an extension of the church’s summer outreach; instead of a traditional vacation Bible school, Lombard CRC offers an evening sports camp.
“Our community sees us as a sports-minded church in terms of how we reach out,” Postma said. “My thought was—let’s build a rink, post hours on our website, and get some volunteers to maintain it really well so it’s attractive both to the community and to people from church.”
Postma said around 40 percent of the people who come to the rink, open since mid-December, have no affiliation with any CRC. Some people are surprised to learn that the rink is connected to a church.
“I had someone ask me, ‘what is this place?’” Postma said. “I told him it’s a church, and he said, ‘Really? You have an ice rink at your church?’ It’s a confusing thing with people. Someone else asked if this was a park. It’s a bit of a shock factor that the church has an ice rink, but it’s fun.”
When not on the ice, people can sip hot chocolate and relax in a warming center, a room located at the end of the church. On some cold nights they have fires in their fire pit, part of a new brick patio the church installed last summer.
“I’ve been excited by how grateful our neighborhood has been,” said Carrie Tazelaar, who volunteers at the rink along with her husband, Brian, while their children skate at the rink. “Parents are grateful for an outdoor winter activity that’s local, and they’re very surprised that it’s free of charge. There’s also been the opportunity to spend time with church members we never [otherwise] would. The rink has given us an excuse to sit by the fire on the patio or inside in the cafe.”
Tazelaar noted that the only donation they will accept is toward the “puck fund,” since so many have been lost in all of the snow piled up around the rink.
“People in our community certainly know what our congregation does together on Sunday mornings,” Tazelaar said. “Corner Ice gives them an opportunity to know who our church family is outside of the sanctuary. We are a fun, close, loving congregation and want to share that.”
Given the location, Postma noted that it only makes sense to take advantage of the opportunity.
“To take advantage of your property and attract people to it—if you can do that, you have to go for it,” Postma said. “When you pull people together and you’re having fun on an ice rink, that’s when they really start opening up and are willing to talk to you. I hope we do this for years. If it’s used as a conduit for just one individual to come to Christ—then it’s all worth it.”