MAKING EVENTS COUNT
David B. Smith – Daily Dose Radio
FENTON, MI – It's that time of year again! The time of year when we begin planning for the Pig Festival, Apple Harvest parade, Cow Days, Cherry Blossom Festival or whatever your version of the community festival is called. But why go to all that bother? Why do we recruit volunteers, purchase supplies, make reservations, pay the fees, and put in the time? Is it really worth it?
My church participates in a local festival every year. We've been doing it for 12 consecutive years. Let me say right up front it is a lot of work for a two-day event. When this opportunity first presented itself we decided to create a food vending booth out of which we would sell grilled corn-on-the-cob. None of us are professional chefs but we felt called to be part of our community through the festival. The Lord gave us the idea and the energy to follow through.
County fairs bring communities together. (Photo courtesy Mayfield County, MI)
We created a menu with three varieties of corn-on-the-cob. The first year we had mostly lookers, not buyers and we lost money on the produce. Everybody wanted to know why the Baptist church was at the festival selling corn. But we continued to come back year after year serving the same menu and after a while people began asking for us by name. Now the festival planners expect us to be there. Around April or May when I see people in the store they say, “You're gonna be at the festival this year, right? I love your recipe.”
Is praise for a mediocre grilled corn recipe reason enough to continue to go to all the trouble? The answer to that question is easy – no. So why do it? Let me give you three reasons to be engaged this year in your local event:
First, we are part of a grand company whose job it is to publish glad tidings especially in our community. One of my favorite verses from the Psalms, “The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.” (Psalm 68:11) The workers in the front of the tent are
trained to provide a gospel tract with every ear of corn. The tracts are also prominently displayed on the serving counter.
Because we are long time participants we've created relationships which often lead to gospel presentations. We usually get the first spot in the line of booths called restaurant row. This gives us a little extra room for our two grills and washing station. However, it also allows us to put up a canopy. We stock it with lawn chairs and coolers for the workers and for anyone else who wants to come by. Since we are on the end it creates easy access to the entrance. We see everyone who comes into the festival and they see us. Every year we have the opportunity to organically share the gospel with folks as they visit and take a break from the heat.
Next, we are interested in just being good neighbors. People drive by our church all the time and wonder what we're like and what we are doing behind those glass doors. Without fail every year at the festival someone comes up to me and says, “So you're the pastor of the Baptist church.” Without sweating over a hot grill on a hot July day I doubt I would have ever had the opportunity to hear those words and to make a connection. The community really does want to get to know us. By being at the festival every year we've let them into our circle.
Finally, we have created strategic relationships over the years with local government leaders, police, and fire officials. They feel comfortable with us simply because they've gotten to know us through the festival. This is especially important for my congregation because we are situated in a Northern city where being a Southern Baptist is a little different. Because we've been faithfully engaged with our community it has produced many benefits for us. We are trusted. I've had opportunity to engage with city leadership on a spiritual level because my congregation was willing to put itself out there.
So is it worth it? My answer is a whole hearted yes! In so many ways the goodwill, community engagement and gospel witness really do make it all worthwhile. Would I recommend it for you? Yes! Please don't pass up an opportunity to touch lives and make a difference for eternity even if it's over a piece of grilled corn-on-the-cob.