New resources are being developed “to help Synod congregations and their schools use friendship-celebration events to support the Ablaze! initiative by helping them be the best welcoming communities they can be,” says Rev. Larry Reinhardt.
Reinhardt is director of Outreach and Stewardship Ministry for LCMS District and Congregational Services, which commissioned the new material along with the Center for U.S. Missions, based at Irvine, Calif.
Ablaze! is LCMS World Mission’s initiative to share the Gospel with 100 million unreached or uncommitted people — half of them in the United States — by 2017.
Reinhardt and Rev. Michael Ruhl, executive director of the Center for U.S. Missions, are coordinating the work of a five-member group that began work last month to update and develop new friendship-celebration material.
Ruhl describes friendship-celebration events as “planned activities that prepare members to meet and make friends with unchurched residents in the community and that prepare congregations to invite and engage the community in winsome friendship and fellowship with them.”
He said that such events include special outreach Bible studies, open-house worship services and messages, witness-training activities, outreach to children, “attractive events which connect with diverse generational groups,” and “special activities for Christian day schools and child-care ministries to make friends with community residents.”
“Evangelism Sunday celebrations have been part of congregational life in the LCMS for several decades,” Reinhardt said, explaining that Outreach Ministry and the Synod’s former Evangelism Ministry office have offered resources each year with themes such as “Friendship Sunday” or “Hospitality Sunday.”
“So, resources to help Synod congregations plan friendship celebrations are nothing new,” said Reinhardt, who told Reporter he periodically gets calls from congregations that continue to use them but “are always looking for new ideas.”
“What is new,” he said, “is that we intend for these new resources to give congregations and schools a handle for jumping onto the Ablaze! bandwagon — something that I also hear so many of them are more than ready to do.”
Ruhl said the goal of the new and updated friendship-celebration materials, which are scheduled to be available this summer, is “to provide the best resources we can to help LCMS members be more effective in building relationships with the unchurched in their communities and inviting them to participate in their worship and ministry.
“We expect that the new Friendship/Ablaze! celebration resources will help congregations and schools be more creative, intentional and effective in developing side-door events and other strategies and activities for reaching the unchurched in their communities,” Ruhl said.
He described the Center for U.S. Missions as “the mission-training arm of the Synod, preparing missionaries and church planters for outreach in North America and providing resources to help districts and congregations mobilize for Ablaze!”
Development of the new friendship-celebration resources is being funded with a grant from the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.
Posted Feb. 28, 2005