Can Your Church Love Its Community Well? Here’s How This One Did.
Matthew Stieger leads the Crossroads Christian Church in Macon, MO. Recently I got to talk with Matt about their morning of “Loving Our Community.” With lots prayer and preparation, they embarked on a Sunday morning of meeting needs around the community. Here’s our conversation:
How did you all come up with the idea to do “Loving our Community”?
It has been a dream of mine since arriving at Crossroads to do something like this. When I was in college, I remember hearing about how Jon Weece and Southland Christian Church served the city of Lexington, KY, on Christmas and thinking to myself, “That’s the kind of church I want to be in the future.” After ten years, this year felt like an excellent time to try it. We have just come out of a season of building, and our church seemed hungry for something fresh and new. We assembled a team of community-focused people that represented the demographics of our church and town and started to brainstorm. We looked at where we saw needs around town, where we could step in, and what it might look like for us to do this in small town Macon, MO. Through this team’s planning and creativity, God took over and started connecting all of the dots.
Cool. How did you go about planning for it?
When it came to planning, we established an incredible team of about 16 people from the church. They were specifically chosen because of their connection and involvement in the community. On the team, we had a school board member, the director of state family services, the president of the downtown association, a school teacher, a couple of business owners, local construction manager, a state trooper, the public administrator and many others. We wanted people with a pulse of the needs of the community. When we got together for the first time, we brainstormed every possible project and serving idea we could think of. We then narrowed it down to about 16 different projects. We surveyed the church for names and needs within those final projects. It was exciting to see God begin to open doors from there.
We met with the Macon city administrator because some of our projects in the local parks required approval. It passed with little discussion at the next city council meeting. We connected with our local elementary school to send home letters to specific families. They were more than willing to help. We knocked on doors to offer free gutter and roof repair and found people in tears. We introduced the vision for the day on a Sunday morning coupled with a sermon series on the actions of following Jesus. We made sure to emphasize that there were projects and service opportunities for all age groups and physical abilities. We had places for the church to sign up for specific projects over the upcoming weeks. We recognized this was a significant change for us. To help us navigate this change better, we planned a very abbreviated service together on Sunday before going out. God showed up just as much in the preparation and planning as on the day serving!
That morning, what were some of the specific ways you “loved your community”?
We were able to love our community in a variety of ways. We had the opportunity to provide plumbing for a man that had not had water in his house for four years after some copper was stolen. We painted our local skate park to give a fresh and artistic feel to downtown. We made freezer meals for people in town that were in need as well as foster families. We cleaned up the yard of a local house that had accumulated a large amount of trash and debris. We built two handicap ramps for families in town. One of those families shared that the mother of the home used a wheelchair and had not been out of the car anywhere in two years. We provided laundry service at the local laundry mat for families that we had connected with through the school as well as others there that day. We swept, painted, and cleaned up downtown. We prepared boxes of homemade cookies for the police, firemen, nursing home workers, and other civil servants in our area. We built a shelter on the side of our local food pantry to protect those lining up each month to receive food. We planted gardens and landscaping for families in town at no cost or labor to them. We had teams that cleaned up the parks, relandscaped the “Welcome to Macon” highway signs, cleaned up trash through town, wrote handwritten encouragement notes, repaired gutters and walked the streets of Macon all morning praying. Everyone found a job, and it was incredible to watch people serve.
What are the top 3 emotions you felt working alongside your church that morning?
Oh man, it was such an exciting day that was filled with so many emotions. In complete transparency, going into the day I had some fears. With this being the first time, I was fearful something wouldn’t work how we had planned. I was afraid of negativity with so much change and canceling services that day.
God quickly replaced that fear with joy. About mid-morning as I drove through our town, I saw our people in blue shirts EVERYWHERE! It was such a joy to see the servant heart of the church on every corner. No task was too big or too small. There wasn’t a bag of trash or neighbor that wasn’t important. I was overcome with joy not only to see people serving, but smiling, laughing, and having fun while doing it.
Probably the third emotion was humbled. When we were done, we all returned to the church for lunch and to share stories. When I pulled into the parking lot, there were cars everywhere. The two roll-off dumpsters we had rented were overflowing. I walked in the church, and there was a lunch line that reached out and throughout the lobby. I heard stories being shared while standing in line. The hard work of the church humbled me. I was humbled by the unconditional love that was lived out that day for our community.
I was humbled that God would use our church in small-town rural America in such significant ways.
It’s going to be hard to narrow it down, but could you tell us one story that came from the morning of “Loving Our Community”?
One of my favorite stories of the day was knocking a lady’s door to see if we could fix her falling gutter for her. When she came to the door, she was expecting an argument, not a blessing. We began to tell her what we were doing and why we were there, and her response was, “Why would you ever do that?” She shared with us standing on her front porch that she had lost her husband who was killed in service, and that her daughter had recently committed suicide. I told her that we wanted nothing in return and that we were just loving the people of our community. She looked back at me and said, “But people don’t love me.” I said, “Well, as a church we do, and we are sorry for the hurt that you are going through right now.” We would not have been able to have that conversation if it weren’t for serving that day and a broken gutter. We had no idea that was this woman’s story until she opened the door. God lined up stories like this all over for us that day!