NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Who would think a snowball fight could bring a New Orleans-area church closer to its neighbors?
For a kids-oriented “WinterFest,” Ames Boulevard Baptist Church, Marrero, arranged for 300-plus pounds of snow to be on hand for throwing snowballs and making snowmen.
“The philosophy was that the way to reach the people in our community is through the children,” said Don Pike, the church’s associate pastor and a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, “and several good seeds were planted.”
In addition to snow, the church brought in contemporary Christian band From Here to Mars from Southeastern University to play throughout the day. Inflatables, carnival games, face painting, rock climbing and free food also were featured at the event.
Pike and the pastor and youth minister from Ames Boulevard each presented the Gospel briefly at different points during the day. The church’s evangelism team, meanwhile, shared with families and gave them New Testaments while walking around enjoying the activities.
With a positive response from the community, Ames Boulevard plans to host another WinterFest next year. Since the Jan. 6 WinterFest, the church’s worship attendance has risen, and more than 25 first-time guests have visited in the worship services.
Pike’s work on Ames Boulevard’s staff is part of the Unlimited Partnerships initiative — a Cooperative Program partnership of New Orleans Seminary, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the North American Mission Board. Unlimited Partnerships places seminary students on Gulf Coast-area church staffs to assist with evangelism, discipleship, starting new Bible studies and leadership development. Sponsoring churches pay the salary and give mentoring to the students.
Another New Orleans-area church, First Baptist Church of Westwego, held a “WegoWild” outreach at the community’s Catfish Bourgeois Park last November.
“The intent of WegoWild was for us to give the community free prizes, free food and a free event in order to represent the free gift of grace we receive from Christ,” said Bobby Wood, the church’s minister of education and another Unlimited Partnerships student from New Orleans Seminary. Wood said the event also helped communicate to First Baptist’s neighbors -– about 500 of whom attended –- that Westwego’s members love God and people.
When Wood and an evangelism team were out on a follow-up visit, one Catholic man said he was pondering a visit to a congregation like First Baptist. “I’ve never seen a church do something like this … [to] give free things away and be willing to do things like this for people.”
Pastor Jay Adkins described WegoWild as the best community outreach event in the history of the church and said another WegoWild will be slated next year.
Daniel Savage, First Baptist’s worship pastor, noted, “Out of all the churches I have been involved with, it was the coolest picture of the church being the church. Whether it was a guy standing at a grill for four hours or sitting at a football toss, it was great to see the turnout and excitement of our people wanting to reach out to their community.”
This article by Bethany Hales, assistant to the director of Unlimited Partnerships, New Orleans, was provided by the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s communications office.