Michigan Church Adds Bingo to Community-Based Connection Approach

Michigan Church Adds Bingo to Community-Based Connection Approach
Credit: Shanna Grigoletti
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On Mondays, according to the Facebook page of Calvary Christian Reformed Church, “It’s Bingo night—come join us; everyone’s a winner.” For the congregation in Wyoming, Mich., this weekly bingo game is just part of an increased connection with the surrounding community. The game nights encourage the community to see Calvary’s building as a hub or community center.

“There’s always been a spirit of being open to people using the building who don’t necessarily go to this church,” said church administrator John Quist.

At first, the bingo games were held in the morning, but they became so popular that the church added an evening session. “People come in off the street (to play). It’s this huge community now. We’re seeing people invite friends, and it’s growing,” said Shanna Grigoletti, who organizes the games as well as other community-based activities at the church.

Prizes usually consist of non-food personal items that have been donated, such as toilet paper, deodorant, shampoo, and dish soap. Even players without a full line or bingo card can claim a prize at the end of a round—that’s how everyone’s a winner.

Other community-based activities at Calvary include cardio kickboxing and self-defense classes, a senior fitness class, and a financial mentoring program sponsored by a local bank. In addition, two other congregations, including a Reformed Church in America church plant, hold worship services during the week and offer children’s programs, Quist said.

Calvary’s increased community-based programs grew out of a shared decision by church leadership and members about six years ago to become more intentional about connecting with the surrounding neighborhood. “We try to welcome people as often as possible, in every way possible,” pastor Mark Van Drunen said.

A small coffee shop operated by volunteers was the first step in that outreach process, but the list of activities has grown considerably since last fall, Van Drunen said.

The increased use of the building for community activities has gone over well with church members. During annual church retreats, participants in a survey said they liked the fact the building was being used and not sitting empty. Quist said the growth in programming would not have been possible without the help of community members volunteering their time along with church members.

“It’s not just about us at all. It’s about doing stuff together—collaborative ministry,” Quist said.

About the Author

Greg Chandler is a freelance news correspondent for The Banner. He lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

See comments (2)


That's nice although my initial reaction was, "Oh dear!"  I remember playing bingo in the days when my antipsychotic medication was still in flux, and I still felt too distracted by my symptoms to do anything that was more productive, so the thought that a church would hold bingo sessions doesn't sound like good news to me, but perhaps there are people who actually need that right right now.  Glad it isn't me anymore.

There is a slippery slope to every issue.  Should we post the Bingo sign beside the church services sign? We would certainly join some neigboring churches. 

Like all forms of gambling including (so called "innocent")  Bingo is addictive. It usually attracts the most vulnerable people.

Some churches might be in great locations for slot machines. 

I believe three of the Gospels mention Jesus cleansing the Temple. Should we be careful who we let in?