Is there still value in doing large-scale church outreach events for the community?
I am nearing the start of my ninth year of ministry as Pastor of Worship and the Arts at Chilliwack Alliance Church. It has been a tremendous privilege joining hands with other pastors and lay ministry leaders in shepherding this wonderful group of believers here in Chilliwack.
I write this article shortly after coming off of the busiest season in our church’s calendar. Although it has been busy, I sit here at my desk with a thankful heart for all of the incredible people I have the joy serving with from week to week, and for those who help with large-scale outreach events – in particular, our annual Five Corners Christmas production which was held for the seventh consecutive year this past December. We are blessed with a multitude of talented artists who serve joyfully and with humility from year to year. In turn, our worship ministry, the church body, and our community are all blessed as a result.
Each year the Five Corners Christmas production offers a full length, home-grown original play which includes a sixty voice choir, soloists, live orchestra, intermission with home-baked goodies and lobby musicians, theme-based decorations, and a special kids’ feature for the families to enjoy. This year’s story was a modern telling of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son found in the Gospel of Luke. The story was so relatable because the message of forgiveness and hope is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago when Jesus shared the words.
We have seen Five Corners grow each year with four shows presented over one weekend and over 1000 people in attendance at every performance. We have reached capacity unless we find a creative way of adding more shows without exhausting the amazing team who makes it possible. A great deal of effort goes into the planning and execution of such a large-scale event. Without the help of a great number of volunteers it would be impossible to do this. It is estimated that close to 300 volunteers serve on the Five Corners team each year in various ways.
Through the years, I have observed that fewer churches participate in large-scale arts events at Christmas, and perhaps other times of the year as well. An argument can be made that it is far too demanding on resources within the church, particularly the people resources. Another argument could be made that these events are too demanding on leadership and those involved in overseeing such events. I suppose that this is true in a lot of cases, but each church has to examine the merits and challenges in proposing such an endeavour.
It is sometimes difficult to measure the impact of the play and event on those who attend, but our people wholly embrace Five Corners and bring hundreds of non-believing neighbours, family, and friends to each performance. It may be difficult to gain a true measurement of Five Corner’s value as an evangelism tool, however the stories and feedback we hear every year speak in powerful ways to how God has chosen to use this ministry, not only in planting a great deal of seeds, but in some specific opportunities for harvest as well.
Another impact has been observed and felt by those involved in the play and other aspects of the production. Every year we have non-churched people, many from our community, who participate in Five Corners, in both on and offstage roles. It is so great to rub shoulders with these individuals and see not only the passion and interest they show in being involved, but the joy experienced in being involved in community. It has been most exciting seeing some of these individuals turn to Christ as Lord and Saviour. In addition, as our own people serve a cause bigger than themselves greater unity as a church body results. Suffice it to say, we at Chilliwack Alliance have found value in continuing our large-scale Christmas event despite the increased demand on resources and leadership inherent in such a pursuit.
In 1 John 1:3 we read, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”. This is our intention with the ministry of Five Corners: we desire to declare the truth of Jesus with the community around us. In this way, our fellowship and the unity we share may be a shining example to others of the fellowship we have with God whom we serve. To God be the glory!