How can a church show and share Christ’s love during a global pandemic, when communities are mandated to social distance and sometimes quarantine? Maranatha’s Neighbour-to-Neighbour Kits have been one way they reached out in love.
Maranatha; ‘Come, Lord Jesus!’
To the members of Maranatha CRC in Lethbridge, this means that they are a community of people who believe that Jesus came to give them friendship with God through his ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection and that one day he will return again. (taken from website)
This gift of friendship is at the core of the church’s Community Relations Committee’s mission. Throughout the year, the committee seeks out different ways they can connect their church and broader community and share the love of Jesus. In the past, they’ve had movie nights, held a summer pancake breakfast, run VBS, and more. But how can a church show and share Christ’s love during a global pandemic, when communities are mandated to social distance and sometimes quarantine?!
This was the central question the committee struggled with. They wanted to find a safe and fun way to reach out to their community to show them that the church was still active and cared about them. Something they noticed was that as schools and daycares were closed, kids were home more and didn’t have their regular activities to keep them occupied and engaged. One member of the committee saw an idea on Facebook of making up care packages/activity kits for kids and families and she shared it with the group. After 30 minutes of brainstorming, the team came up with the idea of weekly kits that would include all the material for a craft, colouring sheets, a small treat (like microwave popcorn, sucker, candy), and a word of encouragement (a bible verse, prayer). The weekly ‘kit’ would often be themed based on the church calendar, like Easter and Pentecost. A video series called Kids Krafts was also created, which shows kids how to make the weekly craft in their kit and also shares the meaning or bible story behind the craft! “ This is another connection back to our church and a way to share the gospel during this pandemic,” Joshua Sweetman, the church’s youth director, shared. The team decided to “hand them out” Fridays from 2-4 pm, while abiding by local and provincial health guidelines and social distancing protocols.
“People need people,” Paula Haugen, a member of the committee, shared. “It sounds so cliche, however, it is true. A smile, a simple hello, showing you care for someone else (even a stranger walking by) is so important in times like these. It allows us to send the message that no one needs to be alone. Our church is here for you. Most importantly, we are trying to share the love of Jesus through this small gift.”
The feedback has been wonderful and even a bit surprising! Many from the church and the broader community have been willing to help, including the church’s youth director, Josh Sweetman. (Here’s a promo video Sweetman did recently on Facebook!) Some church members have also begun handing them out in their own neighbourhoods. Haugen shared about the joy she experiences when she sees a child has come back for a second or third time to pick up a kit and sometimes with a friend. She recalled one particular little girl from their community who came to get a kit and said she had been missing Jesus. “My heart broke,” Haugen shared, “but at the same time, I was so grateful that we could share Jesus’ love with her.”
The team has also received emails and Facebook messages asking if this idea can be used by other churches – even as far away as Florida!
Sweetman admits that this initiative wasn’t an instant success. “The first week we tried doing the kits we only handed out nine kits. It was super disappointing,” Sweetman admits, “as we had made 30. And all nine went to members of our own congregation. After that I went on Facebook Live and shared this with our congregation and then prayed over the kits. God heard our prayers and surprised us as the next week we handed out all 30 of the new kits we had made, plus all the ones left over from the week before!”
For other churches seeking new ways to share the gospel and connect with their neighbours, Sweetman encourages them to not give up, even if their efforts seem to go poorly the first few times. “Take time to strategize,” he advises. “Think about why you think it went poorly – and then pray and pray some more! And let God surprise you!”
Moving forward, the church’s Vacation Bible School Committee is looking into doing something similar during the week to continue to bless their neighbourhood and keep connecting. “It has been such a blessing to share the love of Jesus with this committee in this way, at this time, in our lives,” Haugen shared. “God is so good. Even in a difficult time, a light shines.” Sweetman echoes her comments. “The Neighbour-to-Neighbour Kits have become something for the congregation to rally around,” he shared. “It has become that sliver of hope in the darkness. God can indeed have beauty come from the ashes.”
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