Abundance of Love Fuels Summer of Service to Kentucky County
By Carl Stagner
When Allan Hutchinson accepted the pastorate at First Church of God in Winchester, Kentucky, five years ago, he immediately wanted to see the church engage with its community. Isolation could not be the name of the game at the Church of God on Colby Road; the longstanding and influential congregation within the Movement had to grow its positive image in the community because, after all, their image reflected that of Christ. Across Clarke County, there were people who needed hope, and First Church of God had the answer. With the exception of 2020, each year since has seen the “Summer of Service” spark countywide congregational and individual efforts to be the hands and feet of Jesus outside the four walls of their building. As the church’s director of children’s ministry Kristy Marcum conveys, it’s out of an abundance of the love of Jesus that they love others.
“[Pastor Allan] kicked this off and wanted to make sure our church developed a strong culture of connecting with the community while serving,” Kristy explains. “As a result of our Summer of Service campaigns, we have seen a significant increase in congregation members seeking individual opportunities to serve, not just event-based service projects. People want to serve not because they are supposed to, but rather out of an abundance of the love of Christ shown to all of us.”
Early this summer, the church participated in what is known as “Pop Up in the Park.” In partnership with the local parks and recreation organization, First Church of God sought to visit each park in the county to interact with local families and enhance community. In so doing, the witness of Jesus could hardly be stronger. “We passed out free hot dogs, chips, waters, and Gatorade to local families,” Kristy recounts, “while interacting and playing games with them, including kickball and cornhole. One of our congregation members even made balloon animals for all of the kids. The priority was interacting with the community, not just handing out free stuff. Whenever we participate in or host events like this, our primary goal is always to witness the love of Jesus to our community. The church shows its love to others through service, just as Christ commanded us.”
As the summer has persisted, the church has involved itself in a number of other projects, including other locations of “Pop Up in the Park.” A “Christmas in July” campaign was planned to help collect gift cards in advance of the church’s “Impact Clarke County.” Kristy explains. “Every December, we hand out spontaneous gifts to our community, and then deliver gift bags to our local first responders. We are partnering with and sending volunteers to several organizations in our community, including Clark County Community Services, Winchester Parks and Recreation, the Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter, and New Beginnings Pregnancy and Resource Center. In addition to these partnerships, we are also working on several in-house maintenance and construction opportunities for service, benefiting widows, the elderly, and any others in need.”
Of course, none of this could be possible without the blessing of God on their labor, and the Holy Spirit in their midst. Knowing that their constant interactions with people from all walks of life could make an eternity of a difference, First Church of God appreciates all the prayer they can get.
“One thing that we certainly need prayer for,” Kristy concludes, “is finding the right balance in witnessing Christ in word as well as deed; while we’ve made great strides in connecting the church to the community, we also need to focus on connecting the community to Jesus through our actions. Finding the balance of testimony and service that God is calling us to is one of our highest priorities, as we are called to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.