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Lots of churches hold carnivals to invite the community for fun and fellowship. But Mountainview Christian Reformed Church in Grimsby, Ont., encourages its members to bring mini-carnivals to their own front lawns with cotton candy and inflatables, welcoming those who live right next door.

“It’s an awesome opportunity for the members that are hosting the mini-carnival to get to know their neighbors,” said Maria Oliveira, chair of the church’s outreach committee. The committee budgets for a few such events each year. “It gives a connecting point so that in the future they can have more conversations,” she said.

This neighborhood approach came out of a more mainstream event.

“The [church parking lot] carnival is in its fourth year. It [began as a way] to bless Mountainview’s neighbors during our 50th year celebrations, which occurred in 2012,” said Jason Vander Wier, Mountainview CRC member and carnival organizer. “The ‘Meet Your Neighbor’ events, or mini-carnivals, started a year later when we met Andrew Randall of 2CBeyond Ministries, whose vision is to equip the local church to be the light of Christ in their neighborhood through various relationship-building opportunities.” 2CBeyond supplies carnival games, prizes, inflatables, and all the accompanying paraphernalia; the church provides the volunteers, and the hosts invite their neighbors.

This June, Samantha and Jeff Bondy volunteered to host a Sunday afternoon mini-carnival at the house they moved into in November 2015. “We were really surprised and delighted with the number of people that showed up, and not just from our cul-de-sac,” Samantha said. “There were old and young . . . a constant stream of people coming in and enjoying the games, bouncy castle, prizes, and cotton candy. Our boys have also been able to blossom a lot of friendships with the neighborhood kids, and we are so happy to see them socializing in a real way.”  
This is the outcome the church expected after having sponsored four or five mini-carnivals thus far.

“The large Mountainview carnival is a great way to impact the neighborhood, but the small ‘Meet Your Neighbor Events’ are where lives get touched and relationships start or are solidified,” Vander Wier said.

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