Seven churches who gave their time away
“Tell them to use their wealth for good things; be rich in good works!” (1 Timothy 6:18, The Voice)
Churches are known for generously donating funds to mission projects, but some share an even more precious resource – their volunteers – with another church, camp or school, building God’s Kingdom together.
Sharing from abundance
I’m a big believer that we’re all part of Christ’s church in different locations,” says Cory Alstad, associate pastor of worship ministry at North Langley (B.C.) Community Church.
So when pastor Peter Helm from the C2C Network church plant Evergreen Community Church in nearby Coquitlam mentioned their shortage of worship leaders, Alstad asked his team if they’d chime in.
Once a month, from December 2015 to June 2016, some 25 musicians from NLCC took turns leading worship at Evergreen.
“My thinking is on the side of abundance rather than scarcity. God has provided NLCC with people with great hearts to lead music, and we want to share that with others because that will benefit the kingdom and NLCC as well.”
Alstad says collaboration is the church’s posture. He and worship leaders from other churches regularly help one another with resources, advice or conversation.
Being part of the beginnings of another church community helped prepare NLCC’s leaders for their own planting initiative: they launched their Yorkson Campus at Richard Bulpitt Elementary School on Sept. 18.
“We were trying to bless this church plant, and we were blessed as we did it,” says Alstad.
His advice for other churches is “Don’t hang on too tightly to what you have, and be willing to share. We’re all part of the body, and if we’re able to help others, we have obligation to do what we can.”
Turning a rental agreement into a relationship
When The Westside Gathering, Montreal, learned that, at the school they rented for activity nights, some 40 children arrived every morning without breakfast, the church got cooking.
“We felt strongly about building a relationship with the school,” says pastor David Manafo.
Five years ago, Westside started supplying Springdale Elementary with dairy and fruit to start a breakfast program. Two–three times a year, a volunteer team from Westside puts on a pancake breakfast for them. The school has since taken ownership of the breakfast program, finding additional donors and lessening their dependence on the church.
Westside also began sending volunteers to an orientation night that acquaints parents with the school community. The church sets up games and food, serving alongside teachers.
Springsdale Elementary promoted Westside’s activity night program called Flipside. Some 20–40 area children attended each month from 2010–2015. In its last year, Westside added a lounge for parents from the community and the church to connect while their children played.
“Our church has grown a lot with young families, whose time is limited during the hours the school needs help,” says Manafo, “but we’re hoping to discover more personal ways we can serve the school, such as mentoring.”
Now working with their fourth principal, Westside celebrates the continuing relationship: “The support staff contact us with needs, and the school mentions the church in staff meetings and assemblies as a positive resource for their families.”
When double-booked becomes double-blessed
When their food bank’s Valentine’s dinner coincided with The Well’s worship time, First Baptist Church, Dartmouth, N.S., wanted to honour both their clients and The Well’s rental agreement. They told The Well’s pastor, C2C Network church planter Adam Greeley, their predicament.
Rather than an imposition, Greeley saw an opportunity. “We shortened our worship gathering and our people came alongside FBC to serve the food bank staff and clients.”
Motivated by “the values of Kingdom collaboration and care for the poor,” Feb. 15, 2015, some 20 people from The Well served dinner to 100 food bank guests.
“It was a chance to remind our people that worship is intended to lead into serving God through our care for the marginalized (Isaiah 1:10–17),” says Greeley. “We gained the joy of serving together as a church plant.”
Greeley reports many smiles and words of thanks from First Baptist: “Such a small act went a long way in continuing to build relationship.”
To Montreal, with love
Previously widowed, retired newlyweds John and Beth Thiessen spent their honeymoon with dozens of students, hundreds of envelops and a cabbage
“We agreed not to take on any long-term service commitments in our first year of marriage,” say the Thiessens, “but we were looking for opportunities to do short-term volunteer work, so we could explore what God may be calling us to in the future.”
Grantham pastor Michael VandenEnden “was excited we were considering it and encouraged us to go,” says Beth.
For five days last December, the Thiessens stuffed hundreds of envelops for ETEQ’s Christmas card mailing, and did the set up and clean up for the school Christmas dinner – a traditional Mennonite meal.
“John and Beth shone out the love of Christ in every interaction they had with staff, faculty and students,” says ETEQ president Kristen Corrigan.
“We learned so much about this part of our Canadian MB family,” say the Thiessens. “We knew so little about the school; now we have a special connection to it.”
Grantham MB values the couple’s service on the mission committee, as greeters, in Sunday school, and on the grounds. The church also blesses them to volunteer regularly at Camp Crossroads. (In 2014, John committed to helping the camp for four months and stayed for 16!)
The Thiessens’ advice to other volunteers is “Trust God with all of your concerns, and don’t wait for the perfect situation to come along. Expect to be stretched and to be blessed.”
Church fired up about camp
“It’s been neat to see how our relationship with Camp Evergreen has deepened over the past 10 years,” says pastor Tom Mulhern of Dalhousie Church, Calgary, “and to see benefits of that in the leadership development of our youth who’ve gone there to work.”
“Our people on the camp’s board, staff and volunteer teams experience life change, and they keep going back,” he says.
Many church members feel an emotional connection because Evergreen is where they met Jesus – and in some cases, their spouse. Some of the camp’s founders still attend Dalhousie and return to the Sundre, Alta., camp for seniors’ retreats.
Mulhern himself caught the bug. When he moved from the role of youth pastor to associate pastor of worship and missions in 2013 and no longer needed to accompany youth to Evergreen, “I still wanted to go,” he says, “so I decided to lead worship
“At Camp Evergreen, we see the great commission lived out: discipleship happens,” says Mulhern. “With so many Bible schools struggling, to see camp so healthy is encouraging.”
Dalhousie spotlights Evergreen in the bulletin and announcements, but the main way church volunteers hear about opportunities is through the camp staff in their fellowship. Several of Evergreen’s current directors, Bob and Bev Kroeker and Courtney Armstrong, recently joined Dalhousie. “They’re sharing the needs of the camp one-on-one over coffee time,” says Mulhern.
“I encourage churches to look outside of volunteers doing inward ministry,” says Mulhern. “The payoff is that it gets people excited about what the church is doing. Youth get a passion to serve because of ministry experience in the church and at camp.”
God uses Deere friends
“It was incredible having another MB church ask how they could serve us,” says Ben Stevens, pastor of The Pool, Moncton, N.B. “We are small church and one of only a few MB churches in the Maritimes, so we can often feel disconnected from the greater MB family.”
A year ago, Stevens received a call from Dave Lunn, youth pastor at Westside Community Church, Morden, Man, who was planning a mission trip to Moncton and wondering how his youth group could help The Pool.
So, for The Pool’s vacation Bible school, July 22–31, 2016, six leaders and 15 youth travelled from Morden to Moncton, to love children, lead games and serve snacks in a rented hall. The setup and cleanup alone would have been as much as The Pool’s 10 volunteers could have handled on their own.
More than 30 children came. Many were The Pool members’ friends, classmates and neighbours who do not attend the church.
“I echo what everyone from our church kept saying: ‘This is an amazing group of youth,’” says Stevens. While The Pool has a good number of children, Stevens’ son is the only teen. “Westside included him in everything,” says Stevens.
A special connection formed between Stevens’ three-year-old John Deere fan and a Westside leader who works at a John Deere dealership. The leader drew pictures of tractors for Adonijah, gave him a tour of a local dealership and presented him with a toy tractor and John Deere hat. When Stevens said thank you, both men had tears in their eyes.
Toiling now to see fruit in the future
“The campus of Bethany College is providing fertile soil for the people of Hepburn to dream,” says Hepburn (Sask.) MB Church member Donna Andres. And the people of Hepburn have been getting their hands dirty helping the dream along.
Last summer, Andres organized six work bees on the campus of Bethany College, which closed its doors in spring 2015. Some 38 volunteers – most from Hepburn MB but some from as far as College Drive Community Church, Lethbridge, Alta. – rolled up their sleeves.
Volunteers mowed the lawn, weeded flowerbeds, purged furniture and cleaned every office, classroom and closet – to free up rental and storage space for new partners.
Like many in Hepburn, Andres has a strong connection to the school: Bethany is where she studied (1985–87), met her husband, worked (1989–94), volunteered on the alumni committee and sent her oldest daughter (2012–13).
Andres’s passion for Bethany stems from seeing “young lives shaped through the atmosphere, teaching and programming on that campus.”
“I feel spoiled to live in the same community as this college: the staff and students enriched this town,” she says.
The Bethany Transition Team is taking steps toward an eight-month modular program – which will include mentorship, intercultural experiences and community living – beginning in fall 2017. Sharing the campus with partner organizations will ensure financial stability and engage students in the wider community.
Andres’s prayer is that MB churches rally together to support the school. “Launching a new program is not easy,” she says, “and we are counting on many volunteers to sacrifice their time to see Bethany affect the lives of young adults once again.”