Holiday Outreach Nurtures Community Connections
Church holiday programs are becoming more purposeful in creating community connections as church members invite their neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends to attend a variety of Christmas and holiday programs across western Washington.
"Even in a secular society, there are a few times a year when people think about spiritual things," says Bruce Koch, Washington Conference Ministerial director. "Christmas and Easter are prime opportunities to reach people with the gospel of Jesus who would not be open to it at any other time of the year."
Music programs form the core of church and school holiday programs. Chehalis Church opens their doors to the community each Christmas for a sing-a-long performance of the Messiah. Olympia Christian School performed their 10th-annual holiday concert in the Capitol Rotunda with bells, chimes, strings, flute and children's voices.
Dramatic performances are rising in popularity, and presenting more opportunities for interacting with the community. Auburn Academy Church and its partners presented Journey to Bethlehem where 6,200 people attended over six nights of the interactive outdoor drama. Elsewhere, the Cedarhome Church had continued success with their Walk-Thru Living Nativity.
Enumclaw Church, like many churches, hosts a Christmas breakfast followed by a music and drama performance about the story of redemption from the cradle to the cross. The family atmosphere is warm and welcoming allowing church members to feel comfortable inviting their friends and family. In all, 230 people attended the December 2009 breakfast and program — representing the highest church attendance of the year.
Graham Church filled shoeboxes and gift baggies for the Family Renewal Shelter and Bonnie Lake Church Community Services. Thirty-five people worked together on this project and filled 91 boxes. The church plans to keep in contact with these organizations to provide support throughout the year. Many schools participated in the shoebox sharing program, Operation Christmas Child, with some schools even serving as community shoebox collection centers.
The holidays present a difficult time for people in grief, and two churches offered grief support programs. Monroe Church presented a GriefShare program called "Surviving the Holidays" that outlined ways to find strength, healing and tools for moving forward in the daily walk through grief. Similarly, Auburn Academy Church hosted a Blue Christmas program in conjunction with the local police and fire departments to honor the memory of lost loved ones during the holidays.