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From the Sermon to the Sidewalk: Worship Renewal Grant Sparks Weeklong Scripture Engagement

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From the Sermon to the Sidewalk
Members of Prairie City (Iowa) CRC hold up the verse of the week in front of the Washington Monument.

For one Iowa church, a Vital Worship grant started a congregation-wide initiative to expand Sunday worship to the other six days of the week.

Two years ago, a group of ministry leaders and congregation members at Prairie City (Iowa) Christian Reformed Church wrote a grant proposal centered around finding ways to help members engage worship throughout the week. 

“One of those ways was to give them a memory verse each week,” said Matt McClure, pastor at Prairie City CRC. “But thinking about it, memory verses are sometimes intimidating, and there’s not a lot of participation, either, unless we want to come up and recite it in front of everyone, which is not fun for many.” 

Instead of memory verses, the worship grant team invited the congregation to engage a “verse of the week” that tied to the previous Sunday’s sermon and provided an interactive way for members to dwell on the verse. Activities included putting the verse somewhere it would be seen frequently, changing phone backgrounds to a picture of the verse, reading the verse at every meal, and using chalk to write out the verse of the week on driveways or sidewalks.

“When my kids and some other kids in the congregation did the sidewalk chalk idea, some of the kids weren’t old enough to write yet,” McClure said. “They drew pictures of what the verse of the week would look like on the sidewalk all the way to the front of the (church) door.” 

Along the way, congregation members began to contribute their own creative ideas for engaging the verse of the week. As spring break approached, one member suggested a competition to see how far families traveling for spring break could bring the verse of the week. 

The verse of the week team took the idea and added specifics to the challenge: the three members or families who brought the verse the furthest and submitted a picture of themselves with a readable verse would win gift certificates to the local ice cream store. 

As they traveled, families took pictures of themselves holding up poster board or a cellphone with the verse of the week on it in places including in front of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., on a hiking trail near Las Vegas, Nev., in the Assembly Chamber of the Wisconsin Capitol, and next to a statue of Frank Sinatra at the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, Mo. The church then shared the pictures to its Facebook page. That’s when Faith Formation Ministries regional catalyzer Trudy Ash noticed and reached out to McClure to learn more and celebrate the creative project.

“These kinds of church-wide activities provide opportunities for families to share this experience with other families and across generations,” Ash said. “I love how they chose activities that appealed to the different senses and to different interests. This makes room for people to find something they can connect with. I also see these activities providing opportunities to try something new and maybe find a new faith-building practice or habit that could follow them for many years.”

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