While the phrase “random acts of kindness” is a familiar one, Jeff Van Beaver would like the phrase “Planned Acts of Christian Kindness” (PACK) to be the rallying cry for congregations to reach the unchurched.
Van Beaver is president of Acts 1:8 Ministry, a Green Bay, Wis.-based organization that grew out of his work as a member of the evangelism committee at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Green Bay. The ministry provides outreach resources, consulting, and funding to help congregations “get out into the streets,” he explains.
Last month, on “tax day,” April 15, people from congregations across the nation took to the streets to give last-minute tax filers free stamps for their IRS-addressed envelopes. This is one of many suggestions found on the organization’s Web site as part of the PACK program — outreach activities that require minimal planning and encourage repeat involvement.
The Web site offers lists of servant activities for a variety of locations, including college campuses, sporting events, shopping centers, and parks. Activities range from washing windshields on downtown streets, to bagging groceries at supermarkets, to providing hand towelettes at sporting events.
“We did free gift-wrapping for Christmas gifts as our Planned Act of Christian Kindness,” one participant wrote on the Web site. “Shoppers were delighted to get that kind of free service. They said it was ‘Incredible! Unbelievable.’ Many people showed a keen interest in our church as a result.”
A typical response to a PACK activity is “Why are you doing this?” or “Who is doing this?,” Van Beaver told Reporter, and those questions give you an opportunity to share your faith and to connect people with your church, he said.
Started seven years ago, the ministry serves more than 900 congregations in 48 states and 24 countries. “With 21 staff and more than 200 volunteers, the ministry impacted more than 1 million lives during 2007,” Van Beaver said. The ministry currently has offices in Milwaukee, Wis.; Houston, Texas; and Eugene, Ore., in addition to Green Bay.
The PACK program for congregations includes a CD-ROM, a DVD, a program guide with step-by-step instructions, and the book 101 Ways to Reach Out in Your Community.
Also available is an individual PACK (Personal Acts of Christian Kindness) kit, which is the size of a business card holder that offers ideas for doing Christian kindness, about sharing your faith, and connecting people to Christ through your church. Recipients of either of the free resources are asked to be part of a Christ-centered congregation and commit to doing one activity each month.
The ministry held a benefit concert April 5 to raise funds to continue providing its free resources and consulting services to member congregations and to enlist new congregations. Van Beaver hopes to expand the ministry through broader use of technology and “to hire LCMS members throughout the United States and beyond to serve as additional staff to connect the ministry with more churches.”
The ministry’s name, Acts 1:8, was decided at a planning meeting for the organization in September 2002. “One of the original members asked if we knew the verse Acts 1:8, so we took out our Bibles — read it, [and] it was a perfect fit,” he said.
The verse reads: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Posted May 8, 2008