The Great Charitable Expectation

Last weekend, our church hosted its annual Christmas for Kids outreach. It was an event like others hosted in churches and community centers around the country. Through it, we desired to help parents that have fallen on hard times to gift their kids for Christmas and perhaps bring some degree of normalcy and happiness into their homes during what might be a rough patch of life.

There were idyllic moments during that day that motivate many of us to serve or volunteer. Moments such as the many parents that were overcome with emotion when realizing their son or daughter would have a gift to open on Christmas. Or other moments in which guests felt God tug on their heart during prayer. These moments are the expectation that so many of us have when looking for opportunities to serve.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way?

I was a told a story recently by a person who volunteered at a soup kitchen for the homeless. She went into the day with the highest of expectations that she’d be met with smiling faces grateful for a hot meal and a warm room. However, during her service working the meal line, she was barely met with eye contact or more than a grumbled thanks from the guests. When asked how she felt, she said, “I really didn’t like it and didn’t want to be there. I know life’s hard but I felt they should have had more gratitude.” Those words read from a blog post, may cause you to cringe a bit. However, if you’ve been in her shoes, you might understand. I did. But volunteers’ expectation devoid of context has the potential to cancel out the community building desired for either party in the interaction.

If our Christmas for Kids outreach was to be successful and lift the hearts of both volunteers and guests, we had to keep a number of things in mind:

Material possessions and appearances don’t equal reality

Assumptions can’t be made based on appearance. Nails done… My sister is in beauty school and needed to practice for a manicurist test. New shiny truck… it was bought before the factory announced their layoffs. People shouldn’t feel checked over and judged in a moment in which they’re considerably vulnerable.

Shed expectations of gratitude

Real charity begins when we shed expectations of how we expect those served to react. Take a moment to think how you might feel if the only way you’d make it through the night was to accept charity from someone who in a few hours will be in a warm bed, with a stocked fridge, surrounded by electronics. Think from this perspective: we sometimes dread asking someone to watch the kids for an hour so an errand can be run. Now imagine the feeling of standing in a line to receive food or items that most people take for granted.

 

Relate

During these charitable moments, people being served want more than someone standing behind a table to do a few hours of service before going back to some degree of living comfort that exists in their everyday life. Take down your shield, learn the people, their stories, and their hardships. Finding commonality and encouraging growth steps can help make the moment real, build relationships, and lay the groundwork for transformation.

By keeping these items in mind, hopefully we can fulfill our desire to help, without making them feel worse for their vulnerability. During Christmas for Kids, by the many stories of laughter and tears, I think our group accomplished that. Not that we have it all right, but as a community center we will continue to be mindful of our hearts and be mindful to check our own expectations at the door.

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The Meaning of #CommunityFirst

Recent years have witnessed the rise of the hashtag (#). The social media space is #flooded with them. Even if you’re anti-Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, it’s likely you’ve seen these little marketing tools everywhere, including clothes and as a graphic during your favorite TV show. Its use has become one of the most used crowd engagement tools of our present day. (And I’m quite certain by typing that I’ve already dated this post….)

By harnessing the potential of social media, individuals or small groups can create an idea that begins with small ripples but galvanizes to become a cultural and international movement. For those of us falling short of such widespread traction, hashtags remain valuable by allowing streams of conversation to move beyond the limitations of our physical space using the vessels of the internet.

So what does this mean for the First Assembly Community Center? By hashtagging this ministry #CommunityFirst, I hope it creates conversation for what the community means to the life of First Assembly and vice versa. It should become a calling card for what we do as a community center. The four pillars upon which #CommunityFirst is built are:

#Commitment          #Engagement          #Partnership         #Transformation

#Commitment Community is very important to our congregation and has been since our founding over 90 years ago. To our church, community is more than a reference to the physical area around our property and the residents near it. We define it as a collection of people that share a common thread or bond with respect to family, residence, background, education, etc. We are committed to seeing people from all walks of life take steps towards enriching their lives for the purpose of developing a vibrant, safe, and strong community as a witness to God’s glory.

#Engagement As we build community programs and initiatives, our strategy will be to engage with our community residents, businesses, and public officials to understand what the needs are and how our center is best positioned to stand in the gap to meet those needs. With engagement, comes an understanding not just of the needs, but observation of successes. There are already a lot of good things happening here. Let’s join together to celebrate gains, big or small!

#Partnership The community center is not a property that stands in isolation. We are a partner with Greater Lafayette. We desire to serve this city by demonstrating compassion as it was demonstrated to us through the life of Jesus Christ. Through partnership, the community center can become an example of the unity that exists in the body of Christ when a community collectively rejoices, hurts, learns, serves, and loves each other taking ownership of its continued enrichment.

#Transformation The mission of First Assembly Community Ministries is: To create a community where waves of people are transformed by the love of God… Paraphrased: Community Transformed. We hope to partner with God to help people (that reside both inside and outside the figurative walls of the church) to transform their lives spiritually, mentally, financially, and culturally. The result will be a community of people that cares for, respects, trains, and guides each other to create stronger families, increase quality of life, and raise rates of success in high school, college, and trade schools.

So use #CommunityFirst freely, if you support. But please be careful, #there #can #be #too #much #of #a #good #thing…

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Our First Impression

I’m a thinker… meticulously contemplating nearly everything in my life. This sentence included… and the words I’m using to write it.  So it should be no surprise that when I sat down to write the first blog post for this ministry at First Assembly Community Ministries, that old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” echoed resoundingly
in my head.

With my first post, I had grand designs on writing to outline our plans, cast a vision, and introduce the property… but a more immediate communication need stands in the way: our Community Center Work Day. The need to communicate the work day destroyed my “Grand Opening” blog post but, as all God’s designs are, it was a perfect distraction.

The work day, more specifically the spirit behind it, is the essence of what the Community Center embodies… A group of Christ followers, unselfishly giving of themselves with the goal of lifting up our community neighbors. My hope is for the community center to become a place at which the Southside of Lafayette comes to care for, encourage, equip, and guide one another. We want it to be a catalyst for a community that it is self-initiating, taking ownership and leadership of its continued transformation.

I know I’m not alone in this hope. I hear the questions, concerns, and interest of members of the community and our church congregation as it concerns the Center’s future. I see the wondering eyes and inquisitive looks on the faces of pedestrians that walk by and see the “First Assembly Community Center” signs on the building and off the road. It’s likely why you are reading this post. All of us carry the same hope.

This Work Day is the next step in making that transformation (and hope) a reality. A transformation that isn’t possible without your help.

unnamedPlease join me next Saturday at the Community Center property. Indicate your interest on the Community Center Volunteer Form, email me at gilbert@firstag.org, or call the church office at 765-474-1372. Anyone that has interest in strengthening this community is
welcome, regardless of affiliation with First Assembly. We will do some landscaping, clear items from the inside, and prep for the next phase of the building’s revitalization. Families are welcome! Light breakfast refreshments will be provided.

I’m looking forward to communicating with you on this blog site. Some very exciting things are happening! I’ll share news regarding our vision casting, program announcements, and spotlights on our community partnerships in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s grab some gloves and get to work!