Hallmarks of a Valentine’s Outreach
By Carl Stagner
Valentine’s Day isn’t just a holiday to boost sales for Hallmark. It’s more than an excuse to buy a lavish bouquet of flowers for your significant other. For Green Valley Church of God in Saint Albans, West Virginia, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to engage the culture around them. As the congregation prepares for forty days of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter, they’re decorating their Focus 40 experience in red, pink, and frilly lace.
Because Valentine’s Day falls so close to the start of Focus 40, Green Valley Church of God was inspired to adopt a valentine theme. Two sets of valentine cards will be used for this outreach ministry. One set will promote the preaching series, “Heart Matters,” while the other will serve as a prayer card. Mary Burch Nichols, the associate pastor who came up with the idea, says, “We will ask people to put at least one card in the hand of someone during the next week as a way to invite them to come to church. We are trying to promote an ‘Andrew’ culture by giving people various tools that they can use to witness and bring someone with them to church.”
The church will hold a worship service on Ash Wednesday featuring several stations set up to foster personal worship. Nichols calls the experience an “at-your-own-pace” kind of worship, including opportunities for reflection, prayer, corporate worship, and Communion. The valentines designed as prayer cards will be used for writing down the name of someone who needs salvation. Following the service, the cards will be stored in a basket at the front of the sanctuary. “When someone gets saved whose name has been in the basket—and I’m believing in faith that we will see people saved during this time—we will take the card out of the basket and hang it on a small wooden cross we use in the front of the sanctuary during Focus 40.”
To further engage the culture, Pastor Scott Haynes’s preaching series will emphasize matters of the heart over the traditional, cultural perspective on Valentine’s Day—God’s love to us, our love for God, and our love for each other.
Nichols stresses the importance of our hearts being in the right shape to effectively reach the lost in today’s culture. “In order to reach out to make new disciples, we have to have the heart of Jesus. We have to be burdened for the lost, we have to be sensitive to their needs, and we need to care enough to reach out, pray, fast, and do whatever else it takes to win them to Christ.
Sometimes it’s easy to avoid praying specifically for individuals who need salvation. “Praying generally for the lost is easy, and we gloss over that very often in the church,” Nichols explains. “But praying, and especially fasting for someone specific, requires taking an advanced step in spiritual maturity and making a commitment to follow through by doing something that makes you personally uncomfortable. In order to do that, your own heart has to be in the right place; it has to be tender, prepared, and ready to go into a place of intercession.”
Green Valley Church of God experienced God’s powerful touch last year during Focus 40. They anticipate more miracles during this year’s Focus 40. Have you registered for Focus 40? Join congregations and individuals from locations around the world as we see God transform hearts. Visit www.chog.org/Focus40 for registration and resources.