Your church is planning their annual Thanksgiving outreach. Down the street, another congregation is collecting Christmas gifts for the under-resourced. Across town, they are meeting to talk about how to support single moms within the congregation during the holidays.
This is the season when many churches turn their attention to outreach.
But what if the impact wasn’t defined by needs or even resources within each individual church?
What if churches set aside denominational lines and the structure of “this is what we’ve always done” to come together to transform our city?
What would happen in our city if thousands of volunteers fanned out around our community with the desire to leave people talking about the name of Jesus rather than the name of their individual ministry?
It’s the premise behind ChurchUnited.City and the #LOVESFL initiative.
This month-long outreach is breathtaking in its simplicity — to bring the churches of Broward and Palm Beach counties together to love, give and serve in our communities and then to celebrate our cumulative effort.
“We recognize that a lot of good is being done by individual churches, but when we come together, there is so much more that we can do.” said Laurie Farquhar, chief collaboration officer for the National Christian Foundation of South Florida. “We are stronger together as we achieve results that would not be possible without unity.”
“ChurchUnited.City is about churches coming together with a joint vision and shared outcomes. Together, we want to own the ‘lostness’ of our region and to understand the magnitude of the challenge to stop the ‘de-church’ movement among the next generation. We have to acknowledge the pain of our region in areas like foster care, literacy, single parent homes and the high cost of health care.”
“During the holidays, many churches do food drives and Angel Tree collections. What if we shared best practices in order to make a bigger impact and then were able to tell our congregations and our community that together the church donated this many pounds of food, together we were able to serve our community for this many hours?”
“What if everyone showed up for an event wearing their ministry’s t-shirt and serving side by side as a visual of how powerful believers are when we come together?”
Follow and celebrate
Laurie continued, “For our #LOVESFL initiative, close to fifty churches throughout Broward and Palm Beach counties are coming together to love, give and serve our community. Everyone will be encouraged to post their efforts on social media using #LOVESFL throughout the month leading up to a week of celebration starting December 3. This will be a chance to share the data in a video that captures the community-wide impact of our efforts.”
Love beyond our walls
Beginning the weekend of October 29th, congregations were challenged to LOVE by participating in random acts of kindness — praying with a stranger, inviting neighbors over for dinner, and then to share their efforts on social media using #LOVESFL.
Stefan Bomberger, associate pastor at Riverside Church in North Lauderdale, explained, “Jesus prayed to the Father that we may be one, ‘so that the world may believe that you have sent me.’ Jesus also told us, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ We cannot restrict, limit, or localize our Lord’s words to our local churches or denominations. Jesus is clear. When the larger church unites as one and truly loves one another, it shows the world that Jesus was sent from God and we are his disciples.”
“#LOVESFL is a chance to be team players and to promote unity and solidarity with the larger body of Christ. Every act of boldness to share the gospel – every act of love, compassion and mercy – makes us a little more like Christ. In the end, seeing Christ shining through us is our goal, not just in November, but every month of the year.”
Samuel St. Fleur, pastoral director at The Harbour Church in Pompano, shares why they are a part of #LOVESFL; “We’re a community of believers who want to see transformed people transforming culture. This #LOVESFL initiative is helping us bring the focus of outreach to our community to further engage our neighbors at home, at work, at the beach and at the grocery store. We are aware that transformational moments can occur in the middle of our day-to-day, non-glamorous routine. We want people to have an encounter with God through our willingness to share our lives.”
He added, “To see this region transformed will take a collective effort. This is not a Harbour Church thing or about attracting people to our church. This is about attracting the people of South Florida to Jesus.”
Give to those in need
November 5th begins a two-week focus on GIVE as churches respond to the need for food, clothing, money and toys.
Matt Lomenick of Rio Vista Church, described how they are partnering with First Baptist Downtown, City Church and several other local Fort Lauderdale churches to bring the love of Christ to their city through several outreaches including a Harvest Drive to provide a Thanksgiving meal for those in need. Together they’re challenging one thousand people to each donate $39 to fund college scholarships for Fort Lauderdale High students, a reading program at North Side Elementary School, and to provide for additional programs at both schools.
To serve. . .ourselves
November 26th kicks off a week where everyone will be challenged to serve by giving themselves and their time to a local ministry or organization. Hundreds of volunteers will have a head start on serving by being a part of Cross International’s Packing for the Poor event on November 19.
Gus Cruz of Cross International explained, “We’ll meet at Joseph C. Carter Park on Sunrise Blvd to pack enough Vitafood for 100,000 meals. Each bag we put together can feed up to six children. Vitafood is a blend of rice, soy, vitamins and veggies that doesn’t just stop the hunger but restores the health of the recipient.”
“We’ll have twenty assembly lines going with ten to twelve people each so we’ll need 250 volunteers ages four to a hundred and four for our morning shift and another 250 volunteers for our afternoon shift.”
Gus continued, “Even if you are allergic to soy, we can put you to work passing out drinks to the volunteers or organizing pallets. Shifts are from 8 a.m.-noon and noon- 4 p.m. and you can sign up to participate at CrossInternational.City/Meals.”
“The hashtag for this month is #LoveSFL but we wanted to offer our community the chance to send love FROM South Florida as well.”
A time to celebrate
The final week of December 3rd is all about the celebration as believers across South Florida pause to celebrate the eternal impact of their efforts. The pictures, videos and stories collected throughout the initiative will tell a lasting story of what happens when a community comes together to change their city— to celebrate when Christ’s church united to make a difference.
To learn more about #LOVESFL and the mission of Church United, you can go to ChurchUnited.City.
Anitra Parmele is a writer for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. To contact her, email SharedJoy@yahoo.com.