A look at the windows and walls at a local convenience store serves as a reminder of the needs and opportunities that exist in the community: a fundraiser for an organization, a blood drive for a local resident, the request for volunteers at the school, and numerous people searching for missing pets.
Other needs exist that people are not promoting or publicly asking for assistance. The widow who needs help with yardwork but cannot afford to hire someone. The single parent working a minimum-wage job that wonders how to feed their children. The nursing home residents who never receive a visitor. The parents who wish they could afford an activity the whole family would enjoy. The many people who are searching for peace and hope in a world that has robbed them of these traits.
Over the past three years, approximately 6,000 Arkansas Baptists have met needs like these on One Day: Serve Local, a specific day each year where churches plan and participate in service-based ministry projects that meet needs in their local community and make a kingdom impact. This year, Serve Local is set for Saturday, April 1. Registration and resources are available free of charge at absc.org/servelocal.
As Arkansas Baptists look toward April 1, there are at least four commitments needed to maximize the opportunity that is prevalent in our communities.
Commit to lead the way. Serving locally, like everything else, rises and falls on leadership. The task is too great for one person, but someone must be the leader. The leader is encouraged to build a team. The available resources give insight into that process, and delegation is essential. Will you be the one to lead the way for Serve Local in your church?
Commit to serve the underserved. Needs like those mentioned above may rarely exist in our churches because Arkansas Baptists are great at taking care of each other and quickly meet such needs if they arise. But what about those who do not have a connection to a local church? They are often underserved and forgotten. Commit to identify the needs, then work to meet the need. Distributing free food, giving items away at a “No Sale Yard Sale,” or hosting a free family event such as a Block Party or Movie Night all provide the opportunity to serve the underserved.
Commit to start small. The needs will be so plentiful that you can be overwhelmed. Maybe you cannot get the number of volunteers you desire. Eventually you might conclude, “This is too much. We will try again next year.” But think about this. Can you take 3-4 friends and prayer walk an area, then leave each home an invitation to your Easter service? How about going to a local park and giving away water bottles? Your ministry does not have to be elaborate to have an impact.
Commit to share the Gospel. Other community organizations may be working to meet some of the same needs, but what separates the church from them is the Gospel. Whatever ministry or ministries the church hosts during Serve Local, commit to share the Gospel with each participant. Evangelism resources and training are provided when you register. Serve Local will result in relationships being built, needs met, people shown care and compassion, and invitations to church will be widely distributed; but commit to not miss the opportunity to share the Gospel.
At least 350 people have made professions of faith through Serve Local ministries the past three years! This is what happens across our state when Arkansas Baptist churches serve their communities on the exact same day. The impact on those served on April 1 will be immediate, and it can also be eternal.
This article was written by Clint Ritchie, community missions strategist and One Day: Serve Local coordinator.