By Rev. Eve Williams
One chilly day last fall, Paradise Valley United Methodist Church (PVUMC) decided to try something new: go out and be the church instead of stay in and have church. We called it “Change the World Day” and it turned out to be a very special day for everyone involved.
The concept was simple. Pick a Sunday morning, arrange several offsite and onsite service opportunities, get everyone in matching t-shirts that read, “God’s Love in Action,” and go. PVUMC is always on the lookout for ways to live into our mission statement: “Alive with the Spirit, we bring God’s love into action as we ignite faith, transform lives, and create community in the world.” Change the World Day became a perfect way for us to do that. We started the day with a short service of blessing instead of three separate services and then we went out to serve. After people finished their projects, they came back to the church and sat down to share homemade pulled pork sandwiches and stories about their morning.
As you can imagine, the planning and the execution of the day was a little more in depth than the concept. The task force began gathering in the early spring, and the first session was designed to just dream about what our perfect version of the day might be. No ideas were off limits – there would be plenty of time to sort through them later. Knowing we wanted to offer people a wide array of new service opportunities, we chose projects that focused on the environment, animals, and underserved people of all ages. We were finally able to whittle down our list to nine organizations. Then we focused on developing relationships with new groups and embracing relationships with others. Some of the people in our church needed to stay on campus either by preference or circumstance so we planned service opportunities that could be done onsite.
It was scary to take a whole Sunday morning and step away from “conventional” worship activities. This was the first time we tried something like this and admittedly, we had more questions than we had answers. Would everyone just stay home that day? What about the people who came to church expecting “regular” church? Would they just leave and never come back? How much is this going to cost us?
We knew that God was calling us to step out boldly on faith and step off of our church property. We had to trust that our months of planning, our frustrations, and the hundreds of times we had to answer some version of the question, “now, what exactly are you trying to do?” were all steps toward this vision of taking the church out of the building and putting God’s love into action. And the only way we were going to be faithful to that call was to work together.
Change the World Day became an “all hands on deck” kind of event, and I can’t think of a single group on the PVUMC campus that didn’t contribute in one way or another. Our Transformational Living team led a prayer vigil the Sunday before Change the World Day, praying specifically for everyone involved. On Change the World Day itself, they remained in each of the worship spaces, praying and making themselves available for people that needed to pray with someone that day. Our Preschool and Children’s Ministry team put out the word to their families and offered what they could in ideas and help for ways to include small children in projects. Our Welcome Team remained behind, walking the campus, watching for visitors and people who missed the announcements about the day, and inviting them to participate in one of the onsite projects. Our Missions Team oversaw the entire event, from planning to staffing the day itself. Everyone at PVUMC made some sort of investment in Change the World Day, and based upon its success, we plan to do it again soon.
The United Methodist Church Change the World weekend will take place May 16-17, 2015. Planning resources are available at http://bit.ly/1uRE6MI