Written by: Wendy Van Leeuwen, Guest Writer
It’s Sunday morning and the sanctuary is empty. No music, no offering plate, no people. Where are the people of this church building worshipping?
A drive around the neighbourhood reveals a group of people building a wheelchair ramp in front of a home on the corner. The music of a hymn-sing was sounding from the open windows of a care facility and a group of young people were picking garbage from the river’s edge.
This church was on the move and was worshipping God with their hands and feet.
Service Sundays are celebrated by several churches and church plants in the CRC and have become a reflection of the diaconal heart of a community.
Deacons at Faith CRC in Burlington, ON, were encouraged to consider the concept of service as worship several years ago by Ron Vanden Brink, Diaconal Ministries’ National Director and former church planter. Ron reminded church members that everything we do is an offering of praise to God and when we serve, we are worshipping Him! He challenged the deacons and church members to go beyond financial donations and prayers for local agencies and find hands-on, tangible ways to serve and support their community. Former deacon Brendan DeRaaf indicated that Ron was “instrumental in helping us think outside the box and evaluating what type of church we would like to be in our Burlington community.”
The Service Sundays idea resonated with the deacons, who recognized how well it fit with Faith’s vision of being “a community led by the Spirit, where all are invited, all are loved, all are shaped, and all are sent to live like Jesus” and one of their stated desires to “build loving relationships”.
Ron was instrumental in helping us think outside the box and evaluating what type of church we would like to be in our Burlington community.Brendan DeRaaf, former deacon @ Faith Church
So the deacons at Faith took up the task of finding practical ways to bless their community through acts of service, organizing Service Sundays four times between 2018 and 2020, and picking up again in 2023. They reached out to organizations that in many cases were already supported financially by the church, connecting with them in a more practical way and building deeper relationships and a better understanding of how these agencies serve the community. Based on their feedback, the deacons organized various work sites. They also encouraged members to serve in their own neighbourhoods. The deacons of Faith shared that this led to several opportunities to help elderly or unwell neighbours and to clean public spaces such as parks, walkways, and playgrounds near the church. A focus on including the whole family means that all ages and abilities are included in activities like picking up trash, making cards, and assembling care packages.
On the most recent Service Sunday on June 11, 2023, congregation members did yard work and clean up for several local charities and organizations, served breakfast and participated in social activities at two Indwell housing sites, sorted and packed food at the Food for Life food bank, held a food drive, and assisted an elderly community member with household chores. Faith is working on planning their Fall Service Sunday Worship for October 29, 2023, and the plan is to continue the tradition of bi-annual Service Sundays.
According to the deacons, the effort and planning time that goes into the Service Sundays is well worth it when they see God at work, both in the enthusiastic participation by church members, and in the appreciation expressed by the community members they rub shoulders with. Church members have become more aware of what’s going on in their community and have witnessed how even small acts of service can have a large impact.
“Service Worship Sundays are a favourite Sunday for our family,” shared congregation member Matt Valkenburg, “so much so that our two older kids cried when we missed the last Service Worship in June 2023. It is a practical way to serve, stay connected, and be involved in our local community, as well as to begin the conversation with our young kids about how we can be like Jesus in our own neighbourhood.”
What About YOUR Church?
1 Peter 2:9 says “you are a royal priesthood . . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” What better way to proclaim the praises of our gracious Father, than by showing that grace to others through our care for them!
At Diaconal Ministries, we support churches in discovering what each unique church community does best. Where do the strengths of a church intersect with the opportunities for ministry in the community? God has provided each church with members who have vast networks of social groups, associations, clubs and interests that they support using their God-given talents. Along with these assets, the Spirit is moving in a powerful way in each city and neighbourhood.
Contact us today for more help or check out our Community Engagement & Development resource page.