Arizona Church Shines through Serve Week and Beyond
By Brian Ramsey
The true secret to McDowell Mountain Community Church’s emphasis on “Serve Week” is that it involves so much more than just service, and it lasts so much longer than a week. Lead pastor Matt Anderson is quick to point out that the church’s identity statement is more than a mantra but really describes the daily philosophy of the congregation. McDowell Mountain seeks to develop a community of people united in the bond of Christ who follow Jesus and learn to emulate the great gift of Christ-like love. With that in mind each day, this thriving Arizona church tries to be love and light in the Scottsdale area, and Serve Week is a catalyst that drives the emphasis.
McDowell Mountain started in the mid-1990s, and has always been the type of church that is outward-looking and always serving. Pastor Anderson notes that part of the established culture of the church finds a pillar of foundation in people seeking to understand the impact of Christ’s love, transforming a daily sensitivity to the needs of others, and then being the hands and feet of Jesus by demonstrating selfless service to meet those needs of others.
The church wants the world to know that love is so much more than an emotion and that it causes Christians to act in certain ways. Discovering and providing opportunities for people to love in practical ways is being faithful to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 when he spoke about being the light of the world. McDowell Mountain wants what God wants: for their deeds to shine in order to bring praise to God in heaven.
Pastor Ryan Chaisson, the church’s missions pastor, puts the entire program of Serve Week together (now two times a year: spring and fall) along with the tireless efforts of hundreds of volunteers at McDowell Mountain—called the Dream Teamers. The week prior to the big day of project-based opportunities (Saturday), members are encouraged to earnestly seek opportunities to “love on” others in their sphere. They might buy a gift card for their mail carrier or UPS driver, or they might leave a gift for their trash collector. The idea of being aware of the needs of others and responding in love provides a nearly infinite set of possibilities and expressions of love.
On Saturday, the big focus day of Serve Week, the church is organized into teams who provide an array of service activities. They might pick up trash at a local elementary, middle or high school, or they might assemble bags with treats and goodies that are distributed to first-responders such as police officers, fire fighters, medical personnel, and even those at the hospital. The church has also worked with local food banks such as Midwest Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children.
Of course, the COVID-19 virus has made its presence known by forcing the church to adjust some of the processes, but the overall outcome exceeded all expectations. Many of the activities could be performed outside, and the groups that prepared the treats assembled in smaller numbers with social distancing. Serve Week this year brought nearly 220 people together to reach outside the walls of the church to impact others with Christ’s love.
Some might think that the affluence of the Scottsdale area might hinder the church’s efforts to meet needs. The resourcefulness of the ministry and tenacity of members have overcome that obstacle, and McDowell Mountain has also chosen the task of providing Christmas gifts for 300 foster children. In addition, the church has been strategic in collecting money on what is known globally as Giving Tuesday. Two years ago, McDowell Mountain collected around $6,000 and the next year brought $16,000 for Giving Tuesday. This year, the ministry more than doubled the monies collected, and the church decided to match funds up to $20,000. All in all, McDowell was able to give $65,000 through the Giving Tuesday generosity of the church.
McDowell Mountain has become quite involved in efforts to support organizations and families dedicated to caring for foster children. One man at the church, John, has personally worked to become a Court-Appointed Advocate for foster children, and the people have responded very well to showing love to these families and meeting their needs. There are many outlets to serve when people become like-minded with Christ and desire to extend the impact of his love.
In some respects, McDowell Mountain Community Church is just getting started. Matt Anderson observes, “We will never ‘arrive’ in these pursuits, and the beauty of Serve Week is that it is driven by the passion of the lay leadership and many volunteers. I can honestly say that these efforts are not motivated from the top down but are executed by the passion of those at the grassroots level.”
For more information on the concept of Serve Week and other opportunities to show the love of Christ, you may contact the church at 480-314-2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you may also visit their website at www.mcdowell.church.
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Dr. Brian Ramsey resides in Indianapolis, Indiana, with his wife of thirty-six years, Tammy, who has taught as a Kindergarten teacher at Liberty Christian School in Anderson for over twenty-five years. He has two married children and four grandchildren—all girls, and their wishes have absolutely no extra control over him. He currently works with his son who owns a magazine, and he writes for various entities. He is very involved in his church in the Soul Care Ministry, and he loves to read, watch and play sports, and teach college classes.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.