Saturday, February 27, 2010
A map at Trinity Lutheran, in Richmond B.C., shows the home countries of some of the 8,000 visitors. (Alive@2010 Photo)
RICHMOND, B.C. — Members of Trinity Lutheran in Richmond, B.C. learned an important lesson during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Outreach isn’t about filling the pews but about building relationships.
“I don’t know if we’ll get new members, and I’ve come to learn that’s not the point of outreach,” said Don Hindle, director of parish services, in an interview with The Canadian Lutheran.
“I think that’s been my biggest lesson in all this. It’s not about getting ‘new members’ to fill the pews. It’s about building relationships with the lost in the community and having them ask, ‘why do we have this hope?’”
Trinity was just one of several Lutheran churches in the Lower Mainland to open its doors during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The church is located across the street from the O Zone, the City of Richmond’s official Olympic celebration site.
Since February 12, Trinity has run an outreach program called Share The Joy.
Hindle said by Sunday as many as 8,000 people will have visited the church to watch Olympic coverage on a big-screen TV, take in a concert, grab a bite from the cafeteria, log on in the computer lab, visit the bathroom, park a vehicle or just visit.
He said visitors have come from as far away as Fiji, Uganda and Hawaii, and hundreds of volunteers – some from the United States – have helped out.
Volunteers have learned they must earn the visitors’ respect, he said.
“Our congregation has benefited by seeing the power of hospitality,” he said. “I think they’ve also learned a lesson: people aren’t going to come to our church through a miraculous outreach program. [We] need to get out into the community and meet people; talk to them, build relationships, sometimes spending years relating and working on one or two friends.”
Vancouver’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church also opened its doors to the public.
Like Trinity, Bethlehem ran a big-screen TV, offered refreshments and organized a children-and-youth program called the 2010 Mini Games.
Only seven adults and nine children attended, said Eunice Famme, a church member.
She said 12 people volunteered.
Famme said, like Trinity, they learned they have to go out into the community and not expect people to come in.
“We're exhausted and disappointed,” she added.
Meantime, members of Vancouver’s Prince of Peace Lutheran Church learned they could reach out to the public by handing out More Than Gold trading pins to employees of a care home.
More Than Gold is an organization representing several Christian denominations in the Lower Mainland.