He had been coming to the same church for over 30 years. A quiet man, no one noticed him much. Not knowing how to go about meeting new friends in a church, he stayed on the sidelines, going right home after worship. Another person, a woman, helped with Sunday School for years, yet no one knew her. She was pleasant and friendly, but lacked enough confidence to reach out to anyone. This went on for years.
Then there were some new things going on at the church, Hope Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Many things — pizzas parties, picture-painting, a congregational Christmas party, roller skating, apple festival, Easter egg decorating, kids’ painting crafts, little girls’ tea party, dog show, trips to local attractions, and cake decorating – a series of less-than-traditional opportunities for people to get to know each other. The elderly, the little ones, the people who didn’t know anyone, could come together and have some fun.
Strawberry picking in June was a hoot. We piled into the church van, and enjoyed our back-road, countryside trip, till we arrived at the farm where we could pick our own strawberries.
How did all this start?
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I was that Sunday School helper. Other than the head teacher, I did not really know anyone. There were many friendly “hello’s” at church, but I don’t remember anyone asking me to share a cup of coffee or ask me how I was. I felt alone. I wasn’t active in church and didn’t know much about it. Then Diane opened her home and four of us women came over to play cards. The second time we had seven women. Then others were invited.
It was a great way to get to know wonderful people and brought me joy. But I felt a pull for something more. Cake decorating and scrap booking started the ball rolling as Jeanette, Yvette, and others joined me in pursuing more events. We eventually created a strategy group to help us focus as we grew. We are known as “Family Ministry,” meaning not necessarily the nuclear family but the Spiritual Family of Hope Lutheran Church. (See their brochure.)
We discovered unique ideas to help transform lives and to ease the isolation around us. A spiritual family is believers who do more than just go to church every Sunday and say a quick “how ya doin’?” It’s shared experiences, creating memories that build relationship. Hope Lutheran church is a place where you are cared and nurtured, where you find that sense of belonging that is longed-for in a “me”-oriented world.
How do we pull off such a variety of events?
Our activities are personal, and are fun, because we use the talents of people already in the church. We have artists and cooks, people interested in crafts, woodworking, singing, playing guitar and piano. So it’s not about “finding” volunteers. It’s about fulfilling wishes and dreams.
We ask, “What interests you?” “I have always wanted to learn to paint,” one woman says, “but I didn’t know where to go.” Another woman tells us, “I have always wanted to teach a painting class.” Put them together and we have people at a painting class, learning something new or practicing what they know, sharing their ideas and having fun.
Many of our activities are one time engagements. Serve once. Serve twice. Or continue to serve for a year. Be led by the spirit.
“Doing something you love is what it’s all about.” That’s how one participant describes it.
So if you find yourself in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Winnebago, roughly half way between Milwaukee and Green Bay, think of us as your extended family. There is no reason to be alone. Here at Hope we share our faith in Jesus Christ and also our lives, our dreams, our hobbies, and talents.
(For more information, you may email Beth at [email protected].)