A food truck. A disc golf course. A winter fun event. A neighborhood playground.
These activities are all part of an ongoing effort at Beckwith Hills Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., to reach out to the surrounding community.
The church recently hosted an Iditarod-themed winter outdoor fun event as a way of welcoming neighbors to the church.
“It was cold, probably 13-14 degrees (Fahrenheit), but there were smiles on everybody’s faces,” said Bob Boersma, one of the event organizers who has played an active role in the church’s outreach. “We had four firepits burning, a food truck, and a prayer station. It was a really cool community builder.”
There was also a track set up where adults could pull kids on sleds.
The church’s most recent outreach efforts were influenced by the church’s participation in the Church Renewal Lab, a two-year process facilitated by CRC partner Center for Church Renewal, to help congregations refocus and refresh their mission.
“One of the things that the Renewal Lab really encourages churches to do is to get out, connect with your community, talk to your neighbors, find out who they are and how you can serve them,” said Rick Pinckney, pastor of Beckwith Hills since 2007. The congregation started the Renewal Lab in June, 2018.
Boersma was one of several church members who took on the assignment of connecting with neighbors, police officers, and community organizers. What he heard was loud and clear: the neighborhood needed a playground.
Boersma shared his vision for a playground on church property and got support from the local neighborhood association.
“There isn’t one that children can walk to, and there are about 800 children, according to a survey from our denomination, that could walk to this (proposed) playground,” Boersma said.
The church council and then later the full congregation gave their approval for the project. Fundraising efforts are underway, with a goal of having the playground built later this summer, Boersma said.
Pinckney is looking at the overall big picture when it comes to the congregation’s outreach.
“We’re not doing this just so we can get more people in church,” he said. “We’re doing this to serve God and to manifest God’s kingdom. We’re always checking our hearts’ motivation as to why we’re doing this.”