One of the main themes of the Bible, and the heart of God’s design for local churches, is that we are God’s Family Joined Together on His Mission. God’s family isn’t to hide from the culture aound us as we huddle in our church buildings. We are to engage the culture where ever we can with a demonstration of God’s life among us (City Set on a Hill), and a declaration of His message, the Gospel. We are always looking for Holy Spirit creativity in order to engage the community around us. Newhall Christian Fellowship in Wyoming Michigan came up with a great idea, a neighborhood garage sale. Here is Mike Young’s account (senior leader of Newhall Christian Fellowship).
We have always tried to include the neighborhood with the things we are doing. Our front sign says “in the neighborhood for the neighborhood”, with that in mind one of our leaders suggested a neighborhood garage sale. I have been wary of these things because I didn’t want to host something and then get stuck with all the merchandise that didn’t sell. This one was different – we host the sale thru our website – we advertise in the paper, we advertise with the signage, we advertise with door to door handouts, and the neighbors host their own garage sales in their yards, they keep whatever they make. As promoters of this, we asked people to go to our website and register and if they did that we would put them on maps that we handed out on the day of the event. We all want to see people come to salvation but sometimes we can get intimidated by the thought of having to go out to the unchurched and start talking to a stranger. This event helped us bridge that gap.
About a month before the event many of us met at church on a week night and we went around putting door hangers on all of our neighbor’s doors (575) with the info. We followed this up with a team going around to all of the houses that registered on our website, asking if they had any questions and offering to pray for them to be blessed with their sale. This was always welcomed! I was excited to see our people get involved, somewhere around 95% or more served in some capacity. We opened up our church on Saturday from 8:00 to 5:00, providing bathrooms throughout the day and of course we gave tours to anyone interested. We also sold pop/chips/hotdogs with all of proceed going toward a basketball hoop for the community to use. We also provided lunch and a t-shirt to all of our people who served at the event. This helped the visitors at church know who was from the church and it got our name out in the neighborhood as our people went around shopping in their bright blue “Newhall Christian Fellowship” t-shirts.
On a side note, as I was going home on the Friday before, I noticed one of our cities mega churches getting ready for a nationally known speaker. She was coming in for a three day event that they had advertised on Christian radio and in Christian media. I was struck with the differences in our priorities. This is one of the most “successful” churches in Michigan and I was struck with the idea that they were advertising to Christians to draw them from area churches to come inside their building to hear a professional speaker talk to them about Christianity. We were doing all we could do to get all of our people out in the neighborhood to reach the unchurched.
By the day of the event we had 36 homes registered and lots of others talking about it. As I walked around the neighborhood talking to the people hosting garage sales and others just walking around shopping, many of them told me how thankful they were that our church would do this for them. Several told me this was the busiest they had ever seen this neighborhood in all the years they had lived here. I would guess that with the registered and non-registered homes together, there was well over 50 garage sales in a about a half a mile square area. Many times traffic came to a standstill because of so many cars and people walking around.
Many of the conversations with our neighbors were very encouraging. I remember two years ago and talking to some of these same people who had a very plain “we will wait and see what you do” attitude towards us. Not only have they come to trust us but they are “on our team” now. They aren’t in church YET but they would say we are friends. I personally spoke with a couple different people who have lived in this neighborhood for over 40 years and they said that our church has done more for the community in the first two years we have been here than the previous congregations that were in this building for decades. One man was telling me of his hope that the city would make more cuts so taxes would go down. I disagreed with him and told him that we came in this neighborhood to invest in it and see it turned around. He later came to church and gave us a check for 50.00 towards the basketball court.
In August when we host our 2nd annual Neighborhood Block Party we will officially unveil the basketball court. Just in time to gather people who are coming back from the beaches and campgrounds.