In my work as a Youth Summit community sponsor I help teens in the local school develop leadership projects that benefit our community. The students had noticed that communication between various leadership groups in our community was not functioning well, resulting in unresolved tension. So we decided to tackle that problem by hosting a Community Leadership Dinner at our church and designing a program that would address issues our community was facing.
Our church hosted the dinner on St. Patrick’s Day. We invited the chapel leader from the Detroit Tigers, Jeff Totem, as our main speaker, and had local talent from the county serve on a panel. About 15 teens and extra folks from our church prepared and served the dinner, the food of which was donated. Jeff shared from his team-building experience with the Tigers and gave his testimony of faith. A group builder, Jon Shoonmaker, led us through a series of activities to help us get to know each other and I emceed the event. Dinner was followed by the panel discussion, and the evening ended with an opportunity to share our own goals.
A good percentage of our community’s residents, sixty out of 750 residents, attended the dinner. They represented the school (teachers, board members, and administration), village council, township planning board, fire department, and public works department, and included local pastors and other influential members of the community. The key to getting people to attend was that the teens themselves made the invitations and called the community leaders. It’s pretty hard to resist kids—especially when they want to make the community better!
Our church received an indirect benefit from hosting the dinner: It helped to establish our church as a spiritual resource to the community. Our church is very involved in the community, including sponsoring a professional counseling center and a care center that offers assistance to those in need. We coordinate these programs with the school and local churches. When people think of our church, they see us as a place that helps. We have tried to cultivate that reputation over the last several years. It is especially important in a small town like ours to have a good name among those who have influence.
The event was well received by the community, and people have asked if we could do this every year! We are planning to have the event again next year so that community leaders can go from troubleshooting (being reactive) to problem-solving (being proactive). It is my hope that the teens, too, can be a part of this—as well as the churches. I think churches have become marginalized to a certain extent, and I hope to change that. As we work together as a community, we can do great things! I love being the church that is spearheading this campaign!
It is great that our church is being seen as an important resource in the community for building relationships and networking. My prayer is that God will continue to use this event to open doors for our ministry in the community.
Bob Wright, Pastor
Britton Bethel Baptist Church