Not everyone in our church understands why we have concerts like we're having this weekend. Not everyone understands why we built the pavilion and the playground, or more precisely, why we encourage the community to use it - at no charge. So I want to remind myself of why we do it so I don't forget (if I can remember).
One of the best church leadership books I believe I've ever read was Reggie McNeal's The Present Future. I don't think Reggie gets enough credit or pub, but that's another story. At any rate, one thing he talked about was the impact local churches have in their community. He said we should ask ourselves, "If our church no longer existed, would anyone notice?" (or something like that). So we set out to try to see what our little church had to offer the community where we are located. How can we serve the people in our sphere? Our council, and several others in the church, decided that on days of council meetings we would fast during lunch and instead spend that time praying for direction. I don't know how long this went on, but I remember at one point we all felt very strongly that God was telling us the very same thing: to build a park. Our church is located in the country, but there are a number of houses nearby, and the actual town of Yoder is just a couple of miles away, and there is no park anywhere close. Since we own a sizable hunk of property that we're not doing anything with, we thought we would offer it as a place for people to use. And little by little more and more people ARE using it. And the reason we have concerts like the one this weekend - with a performer that is not necessarily a "Christian" performer (I'm not judging Tommy's place with God, I'm saying that he doesn't perform "Christian" music) - anyway, the reason is... because we don't want to just invite people to "church stuff," but we want to do things FOR the community. So the church is more-less "sponsoring" this concert and providing all the food, and we hope the community will see it as nothing more than wanting to share in having a good time. Certainly we will also have some "Christian" concerts, and I hope people in the community will feel welcome to attend them as well. And I wish I could think of some other things we could do... but at the moment this is it.
Something I've been thinking about is possibly checking into renting or buying a port-a-potty. I know a lot of the church people would like us to just build a restroom outdoors, but those are extremely expensive. When someone reserves the pavilion or when we have concerts, we have it so they can have access to the church restrooms without being able to get anywhere else in the church. But it's a bummer for people who just drop by when nothing is going on. We also have a lot of bicyclers who come by here, some of whom stop, and it would be nice for them too. As well as a fair number of children during the week. But I have no idea how much port-a-potties cost.
So... there ya go. I know it's not anything like solving world hunger or an addiction-recovery ministry or anything... but it's something, I guess. In a way we're really trying to change the perception (non-church) people have of the church. And... we feel we've been blessed to be a blessing. Hopefully no one in the church will see this as "everything" though. It's just one little thing. But I feel I need to explain it often, because I can see it in people's eyes that they don't all think it's a good idea. And maybe they're right, but it is what it is.