Back to School! This means Backpacks.

It's that time of year.
Each year we adopt a school. We seek to invest in the school in our area that has the greatest need. Fairborn Elementary is a school with 1700 pupils many with great need. The school at one time was the largest elementary school in Ohio. Many of the students come from low income families. The teachers are over worked as is their facilities team.

So this year landscaped the school. One of their biggest needs last year: helping kids get on the bus and off the bus safely so we spent a few hours painting letters on the parking lot where the kids are dropped off and picked up. A simple project that cost literally nothing but made a huge difference. Smiling teachers and kids and safe kids accomplished.

As the new term begins we also seek to meet practical needs of the students by furnishing filled back packs. This year we added shoes and socks to the list.

Here's how it works. I purchase back packs bulk rate for $5.75 and then sell to Vineyard people for $5. (Why $5 it's just enough to remind people they have a backpack.) By the first weekend of sale most of the 400 backpacks are purchased. The others sale within 3 weekends.

The people then take the backpacks home, fill them up and return. Families like to purchase the items together and allow the kids to help fill the bags. Often when the packs are returned the kids are the ones who carry the bags in and drop off the pack at our backpack drop off zone. We create a visible drop off zone so people can see the pile grow. 400 backpacks is a pretty sizable mound.

Here is the list:

Back To School Bash:
We will be helping Fairborn Elementary School this year.

What to do:
Purchase Backpack at Info Center.
Fill Backpack with supply list and other fun items.
Return Backpack to Vineyard by August 15th.

Supplies List:
2 – 2 Pocket Folders
1 – 3 Ring Binder
1 – Large Box Kleenex
2 – Glue Sticks
1 – Bottle of Glue
1 – Pair of Scissors (blunt edge, round tip)
1 – Pack Pencils
1 – Large Eraser
1 – Pack Crayons (at least 24)
1 – Pack Colored Pencils
1 – Pack Markers
2 – Spiral Notebooks (Wide Ruled)
1 – Composition Notebook
2 – Packs Wide Ruled Loose Leaf Paper
1 – Pack Dry Erase Markers
1 - Post-Its

1 pair of Shoes, think elementary school. grades 1-8
1 pair of Socks, think kids girls or boys.

Last year most purchased packs of socks as well as shoes.

Last year when I called the school I asked for the best drop off time. When I mentioned we had a few hundred bags the principal responded by shouting to the rest of the office staff...'The Vineyard collected hundreds of bags for the kids!'

I found out the open house date. We delivered the backpacks, shoes and socks mid morning of the open house.

It's always a blast! The outreach is just one of the many outward focused projects we complete each year.

The effect... We are known by our community as a Church that cares and serves others. Caring for our community creates good will that opens hearts to the good news.

I don't know about you, but I like attending a church that seeks to make a difference. I also think I'd know which church I'd like to attend if I was looking for one.

So, if you are a Vineyardite why not join the fun.

Outward Focused Values 2 Practice.

Theory is good, practice is better.

One way I attempt to move the outward-focused value from theory into practice church wide is to create small, or large, safe on-ramps into the arena of outreach.

I've discovered people participate at different comfort levels.

For example, each week we pack groceries that will be used for our weekend outreach and for our food pantry. Some people enjoy donating food, others have the gift of giving so give cash, others like being behind the scenes and show up to organize the food for the packers, or the food pantry. Others enjoy the intense activity of packing the food and others like going, serving and praying for the people.

I see this process repeated often.  People are doing their part, in their way, to ensure the community is being reached and cared for. My job is to create church wide doable opportunities.

 Last, month we developed a buzz to move us forward toward our summer water outreach to our community. We purchased different well known full sized characters. We placed them in different locations in our building encouraging people to drop off cases of water. Each week we also moved the characters to different drop off locations to keep things interesting. 

It was fun to see people taking pictures of their kids with Buzz and Mater. Teens taking pictures of each other with Justin, Hulk, and Ironman.

People gave at their level. One guy dropped off 35 cases of water. Others brought one or two, some just gave cash. The water piles continued to mount up until we had gathered 7,000 bottles of water. One of my friends came to our Saturday service just to drop off his case of water before he left that evening for his vacation. Many people spent hours sticking labels on the water. A few people helped load the truck, pack the barrels and a holding bin with water bottles and 80 large bags of ice.

During the 4th of July weekend we celebrated the success during the services. People joined together in small teams to reach 5,000 people at three different community firework shows. 

That's how most of our outreach events happen. The challenge is then to nurture peoples faith level. We attempt to this by: offering training opportunities, offering consistent monthly / weekly outreach opportunities, having people tell their story during our weekend services to inspire and motivate others, mentioning God space stories during messages, communicating through e-news letters, communicating through face book and blogs, and having a fun staff outreach when there is a 5th Wednesday.

Keeping the value before the people is extremely important. It is hard, almost impossible to do if the Great Commission is not one of your key values of focus. The natural tendency of the human heart is to turn inward. The natural tendency of the heart of a church is also to turn inward. An outward focused leaders role is to continually create an outward focused environment and create many on-ramps out into the community.