Call to action: Garden City church focusing on community service projects

The lead minister at Garden City Church of Christ would rather his members be gone from church — at least mostly on May 21.

Granted, the Rev. Brian Gilroy sees church attendance as important for Christians’ growth. It’s just that he sees other paths toward growth, too.

“We want to get our people out of the box, and thinking more of the fact that the church is far more than what we do in a service on Sunday, while being the body of Christ out in the community,” Gilroy said.

That explains why members will meet only briefly at 9:30 a.m. May 21 before they fan out across parts of the Columbus area to serve as volunteers for up to four hours at places such as Brighter Days Housing, Love Chapel food pantry, New Song Mission and other locales.

It’s part of the church’s first-ever Faith In Action Sunday. Currently, about 100 people plan to participate. Leaders hope to boost that to 150 by next week, according to Cindy Smock, the church’s volunteer kingdom worker coordinator.

“This is gaining steam,” Smock said.

So are other ways for church members to weave themselves into the community. When the church recently hosted a booth at a recent women’s expo at FairOaks Mall in Columbus, some church members went mall walking — and stopped at various spots to politely pray for shoppers they encountered. Only one person turned them down.

“I’m never going to change our (Gospel) message,” Gilroy said. “But I certainly think our methods sometimes can change.”

Hence, the outward focus of Faith In Action Sunday. Northview Church on the north side of Columbus has hosted such Sundays. For its first such project in 2007, it repaired a playground in Taylorsville near the church, gave away bikes to youngsters and fed people in one area at a day-long concert and picnic.

Sandy Hook Church also has done community-service-instead-of-a-service on select Sundays in the past decade.

“We don’t want to be the best church in the community,” Gilroy said. “We want to be the best church for our community.”

Part of that has meant building partnerships with four entities locally: New Song Mission, helping abused children at its campus in Brown County; Love Chapel food pantry; nearby Southside Elementary School; and Clarity, the local Christian nonprofit agency dealing with young people’s sexuality and pregnancy issues.

At Southside, the church has organized a teacher appreciation breakfast two years in a row. And they want to reach others, too.

“The marginalized, the impoverished, the orphaned — those are people we definitely want to work with,” Gilroy said. “We are just trying to be as loving as Christ is.”

Smock, who said she did Christian service projects in college plus short-term mission trips, said her motivation is just that simple as Gilroy’s perspective, too.

“I’m doing this because I love the Lord, and the Lord cares about people,” Smock said.

Her previous outreach experience unfolded as something of an education.

“It really opened my eyes to the need and the pain in the world,” Smock said. “Sometimes, it can be so easy to get so focused on our own needs and our own wants.”

When church members finish their service next week, they will gather at the church that day at 4:30 p.m. to share some of their experiences. Gilroy and Smock said it’s too early to tell whether this can become an annual day.

“But,” Gilroy said, “I hope it somehow can become a part of our DNA.”

About Faith In Action Sunday

Leaders of the Garden City Church of Christ, which averages 260 people attending per Sunday, hope to take about 150 people into various volunteer roles in the Columbus area May 21 for about four hours.

The idea is to serve at nonprofit agencies and elsewhere with practical work — painting, yard work and other tasks — to demonstrate God’s love. The effort is open for others to join if they have no church home.

Information: 812-372-1766 or gardencitychurch.com

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.