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Vancouver-area churches learn valuable Olympic outreach lessons

February 27, 2010 One Comment

A map at Trinity Lutheran, in Richmond, B.C., indicates the home countries of some of the church's 8,000 visitors. (Alive@2010 Photo)

RICHMOND, B.C. — Members of Trinity Lutheran in Richmond, B.C. learned an important lesson during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Outreach isn’t about filling the pews but about building relationships.

“I don’t know if we’ll get new members, and I’ve come to learn that’s not the point of outreach,” said Don Hindle, director of parish services, in an interview with The Canadian Lutheran.

“I think that’s been my biggest lesson in all this. It’s not about getting ‘new members’ to fill the pews. It’s about building relationships with the lost in the community and having them ask, ‘why do we have this hope?’”

Trinity was just one of several Lutheran churches in the Lower Mainland to open its doors during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The church is located across the street from the O Zone, the City of Richmond’s official Olympic celebration site.

Since February 12, Trinity has run an outreach program called Share The Joy.

Hindle said by Sunday as many as 8,000 people will have visited the church to watch Olympic coverage on a big-screen TV, take in a concert, grab a bite from the cafeteria, log on in the computer lab, visit the bathroom, park a vehicle or just visit.

He said visitors have come from as far away as Fiji, Uganda and Hawaii, and hundreds of volunteers – some from the United States – have helped out.

Volunteers have learned they must earn the visitors’ respect, he said.

“Our congregation has benefited by seeing the power of hospitality,” he said. “I think they’ve also learned a lesson: people aren’t going to come to our church through a miraculous outreach program. [We] need to get out into the community and meet people; talk to them, build relationships, sometimes spending years relating and working on one or two friends.”

Vancouver’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church also opened its doors to the public.

Like Trinity, Bethlehem ran a big-screen TV, offered refreshments and organized a children-and-youth program called the 2010 Mini Games.

Only seven adults and nine children attended, said Eunice Famme, a church member.

She said 12 people volunteered.

Famme said, like Trinity, they learned they have to go out into the community and not expect people to come in.

“We’re exhausted and disappointed,” she added.

Meantime, members of Vancouver’s Prince of Peace Lutheran Church learned they could reach out to the public by handing out More Than Gold trading pins to employees of a care home.

More Than Gold is an organization representing several Christian denominations in the Lower Mainland.

“The staff were very receptive to receive the pin and to hear the explanation of the meaning of the Olympic colours,” wrote one participant on the alive@2010 website.

Lutherans also learned they could work with other denominations.

In fact, Hindle gave RCMP trading pins – honouring RCMP members killed in Mayerthorpe, Alta. in 2006, including Const. Peter Christopher Schiemann, 25 – to members of the World Harvest Church for distribution.

“Thank you for supplying us with the RCMP pins,” wrote Pastor Jason Uher to Hindle.Our church is located on the route to the [speedskating] oval track and those who pass by are being given the Mountie pins, The people are so pleased to receive them, not only because they represent the Mounties, but also because of the printed message that accompanies the pin.

“Three guys from the Netherlands, when given the pins said, ‘Free? Free? These pins are free? Thank you.’”

Accompanying each pin is an explanation of its significance and the story of Peter Schiemann’s Christian faith.

Hindle said Trinity members have learned some vital lessons for the future.

“As far as Trinity goes, a lot more people now know we exist, and they will remember the hospitality they received when they got here,” he said. “They may come back to check us out, or they may just use our parking lot again.

“But at least Trinity has made its presence known in the community.

“Now it will be a question of where to go from here? How will we keep our hospitality focus and continue to serve the community that is around us?  How do we get out of our church and meet those who are spiritually lost?”

The outreach effort at the Olympics received support from Lutheran Church–Canada’s national and ABC District offices; Lutheran Women’s Missionary League–Canada, Lutheran Laymen’s League of Canada, and LCC congregations and individuals.

One Comment »

  • Rafaela Woelfel said:

    I loved these olympics truly to the max. Watched practically every kind of sport. Unfortunally i thought that the bobsleigh track was a kind of dangerous, especially the 50-50 curve. A lot of teams went upside down and even the first day at skeleton there was a tragically accident…

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