Church’s Longstanding Commitment to Outreach Unwavering During Pandemic
By Jaymie Dieterle
Olympia-Lacey Church of God in Lacey, Washington, has developed a culture of generosity and outreach. For the last decade or so, the church has sponsored a food ministry and a community block party to engage with the needs of the people in their area.
Pre-pandemic, the church hosted Soup Night every Friday, and the whole community was invited. Guests could come and eat a meal, and also “shop” for supplies the church keeps on hand, everything from food products to diapers. Between fifty and eighty people would come each week for the connection and sense of belonging this outreach event provided. And their needs for food and items for their families could be met, as well.
For the last twelve years, the church has also celebrated the back-to-school season with a block party where they distribute hundreds of backpacks and school supplies. They would also provide haircuts, food, and activities for the 1,000 to 1,500 people who participated each year.
The church has fostered the spirit of generosity in its small group ministry, too. While the pastoral staff strive to inform congregants of needs in the community, they empower the groups to step into situations and meet needs as the Spirit leads. For example, when a local hotel in the community burned down, and the church learned that most of the guests were families using the hotel as transitional housing, several individuals and groups in the congregation reached out to those families with gift card donations to help recover what was lost.
No national health crisis can squelch the Spirit of God moving people to give generously and be the hands and feet of Jesus. But it can push outreach programs into new shapes and venues. The outreach at Olympia-Lacey is no different. Under the leadership of Pastors Matthew and Lora Klaus, the church leaned into serving the growing needs of their community even when their usual modes of outreach couldn’t work.
“During COVID-19, we were unable to have the regular meal and food distribution. To flex with everything that is going on, we did a food drive and distributed the food to our local food bank, as well as our school district,” said Pastor Lora. Members of the congregation gave generously so the church could help with practical needs like food, gas, and household items for people in need. One of the church’s life groups also spearheaded their own neighborhood distribution, giving out food daily in the surrounding community. “We are hoping to return to our weekly meal as we are able, but we have also had great connection with our local food bank and school district during this season.”
The annual block party looked different in 2020, too. Lora said, “This year we decided to do a Drive-Thru Block Party. We had lines of cars full of students. They received lunch, an amazing bag full of fun kid’s crafts and toys from our children’s ministry, and backpacks full of supplies. We had fun cheering each car as they came through and setting up a fun, high-energy environment with music and sign-waving volunteers.” But it wasn’t just about handing out tangible supplies. “We were able to meet the needs of our students and also encourage them during this time where many are learning at home. It was a ‘We see you’ moment where we could offer prayer and speak life and hope over our community and let them know we are truly cheering them on!”
The church has also used this season for new outreach to their community. The church loaned the use of their parking lot for a local college to use for a drive-through graduation. And they organized meals for the fire station and local ambulance down the street from the church. Pastor Lora stated, “We just wanted to say thank you for all they do to help so many.”
Praise God for the Spirit-empowered generosity of churches like Olympia-Lacey Church of God who are caring for the needs of their community during an unprecedented season!
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Jaymie Dieterle is a freelance writer with a passion for books, reading, and life-long learning. She enjoys writing adult small group and Sunday school curriculum for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press). Jaymie and her family live in Anderson, Indiana, and they are actively involved at Madison Park Church of God.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.