Building Community Outside Our Walls, Starting Inside Our Walls

By Matthew Stultz 

Pastor, Acton United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

In our church building, we have scouts, parent groups, AA, and a preschool.  During the Advent season this year, I got busy and wrote a different letter for each group using our building, first stating because of their commitment to help others in this community and their location in our facility that we were family.  I wrote we wanted to get the “family” together for Christmas.  Second, that we would have a Blue Christmas service for folks struggling with the holiday season as well as a kid-friendly Christmas Eve service complete with glow sticks instead of candles.  
I delivered all the letters to make sure connection and appreciation for all the groups was clearly communicated.  I thanked all the groups for all that they do.  When handing out the letters to the boy scout parents, I announced that I would be attending the outing with the scouts in January and if enough scouts came to Christmas Eve, I would sleep outside.  They thought that was hilarious.  It also made them ask if they could sleep outside and earn their polar bear patch.  
Christmas Eve comes and we have a decent showing and a few scouts.  I announce that I see enough and will sleep outside in a hammock.  
Our outing to Pokagon State Park comes and we arrive after dark on a Friday evening.  I set up my gear and climb into the sleep sack.  I didn’t quite get things right and woke up with frozen hair and beard.  The next night?  I had it figured out and slept great and had no ice accumulation.  Sunday morning I led a little service with Eucharist.  I reminded them of duty and honor and all their cornerstones for scouting and that following Jesus just inserts love into duty and honor, God and Country is really God and Neighbor.  
I set the table, invited everyone but made sure they knew it was not mandatory, and the group came forward for Communion, each dipping a little fish cracker into some grape juice.  A few of the boys in the group are really struggling with the idea of God, or that of even being religious.  They came forward and received the gifts of God.  They took Communion.  Now, I realize that doesn’t magically bring them to a deep relationship with Christ.  But it’s a start.  
I was never a Boy Scout.  But today, it’s an honor to love and connect with our Troop 104 and their parents.  It’s probably not the best church growth strategy to employ but making an impact and real difference one life at a time was the way Jesus did it. Christ made all this happen, I’m just the lucky guy who gets to have all the fun.  

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