By Diane Grimm (Paw Paw UMC) & Leanne Fader (St. Paul’s UMC)
September 2019… It all started over a cup of coffee, a prayer and four willing UMC lay people to think a bit out of the box. The first meeting was pre-pandemic and it was lead by Bob Graham, Administrative Council Chairperson at Paw Paw UMC with representatives from Almena, St. Paul’s Lawton, and Lawrence attending. The group openly shared and agreed that each church has a more senior population, attendance is not growing, financial budget and income are stretched, and the same people do the majority of tasks within the church and are burning out, sustainability for the churches was in question.
The group again, through prayer and guidance, asked what we collectively might be able to share together. Then, COVID and the pandemic hit. The group did not reconvene until February 2021.
In February, it was determined we needed to focus on our community. It was hurting, it was broken, and it was reflecting a poor attitude towards all people. So, the team quickly named themselves, The Community Kindness team. We started meeting monthly, and also asked our pastors to attend the meetings. It was determined we would provide a quarterly community event. One of the four churches would “host” the event and the other three churches would “support.”
We conducted a survey of attendees from all four churches in September. The results of the survey have given direction for our future actions. We renamed our team to “4 Churches 4 Jesus.” We have a joint Facebook group (4 Churches 4 Jesus); we post a monthly message/update in each church’s newsletter; we are hosting community events, but expanding deeper in planning, giving and serving. We are looking at partnering within the community for a Homeless Shelter. Currently, we are in the gathering information stage. It may or may not happen. We feel strongly that when a person serves one another, both people grow. So our mission is to be humble like Jesus, to serve others like Jesus, and love others like Jesus. We seek God’s direction for the future of 4 Churches 4 Jesus and our ministry in our communities.
Our 2021 community events included: a summer outdoor worship service and afternoon event with live music, a food truck, and community information booths. We raised over $2000 for United Christian Services, a local organization that helps with emergency needs. We hosted a Halloween Trunk ’r’ Treat event with refreshments and pumpkin painting. In December, we held a live nativity event with local singers, actors, and live animals from Chamberlain Farms.
Plans for 2022 events are underway. So far we have planned a drive-through Ash Wednesday blessing with free coffee, a Red Cross Blood Drive, a joint Good Friday service, a music concert featuring Jean Watson, and we are planning another live nativity.
4 Churches 4 Jesus meets at 6:30pm the third Wednesday of each month at Paw Paw UMC.