Over Here! Over Here! Over Here!

Creating a Culture of Community

by Dylan Wade

The Game
This past Sunday, a majority of the parents who attend our church met at Pastor Tammy’s house for a mixer. At the mixer we played a game where parents were put into groups of four or five and the groups were arranged to make a larger circle. Each group had to pick one person who most qualified for a certain trait, such as who had the most expensive shoes on, who was tallest, who had the most gray hairs, who had the youngest child? When that person was picked the group kicked them out by waving them away and saying “See Ya” as loud as they could. The rejected member would run to the center of the larger circle. Once all the rejected members gathered in the center, the groups on the outside would yell “Over Here” as loud as they could while waving invitingly. The rejected members chose a new group to join and could not rejoin the same group from which they were sent. A new qualifier was given and a new member was rejected from each group. This continued until almost every parent had been rejected and invited into a new group.
As you can imagine, even in a silly game as this the idea of being rejected from your group does not feel good. It may stir up feelings of being lost or not belonging from your past or make you feel uncomfortable not knowing what will happen next. Being out in the middle can be at the very least stressful. Everyone at some point in their life, if not currently, has been stuck out in no man’s land wondering where they belong both literally and/or metaphorically.
On the flip side, when you find a new group who is actively calling you over and welcoming you, there is much relief. You are a part of something bigger. There is comfort in knowing others want you with them, that you belong. The stress goes away.

Obviously I am sure God would like us at PCJH and everywhere to do the latter rather than the former, in that we should be welcoming and waving people in rather that pushing them out with a “See Ya.” Paul said in Hebrews 10:24-25…

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I would say our congregation is doing this, welcoming others, but could we do more as a church? Could we do better?

Relationships Lead to Community
If we could sum up the big idea that came from the Parent Mixer it would be the importance of Relationships. By building relationships we can be a welcoming church and truly see lives being transformed in Jesus Christ.
My family and I moved to Jackson in the spring of 2014 and came in not sure what was going to happen next. At the time my wife Catherine and I had two small kids (ages 4 and 2) and did not have that sense of belonging to anywhere. You could say we were in the center of the circle waiting for a group or church to waive us in. It took some time before we felt we officially belonged but PCJH was the church that waved us in. In PCJH we found a place where we were accepted and could grow. One of the biggest reasons we chose PCJH was the connections we made with other families and members who made the extra effort to get to know us. These were the people shouting “Over Here” the loudest to us. I am sure many of you may have felt similarly when you came to worship at PCJH.
During our Parent mixer I felt a strong sense of community where parents of diverse backgrounds and parenting styles came together to get to know each other better and to look forward at how we can grow as a community, especially for the children of our congregation. I have realized that creating this culture of community begins with putting an extra importance on relationships. In more than one instance, as Paul said in Hebrews, I felt spurred on toward love and good deeds. It was wonderful and empowering. I hope this energy and enthusiasm for a stronger and growing parent community bleeds into the greater congregation. I hope as a congregation at PCJH our “Over Here”s become louder and more inviting, because there are no shortage of people and families who are lost and looking for a place to belong. Let’s invite them in!

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