Several Wesleyan churches across the United States and Canada displayed acts of kindness and held events that communicated the hope of Christmas — the birth of Jesus Christ. Below are some snapshots that illustrate those moments.
Restoration Community Church (RCC) in Scott City hosted a toy drive for local families. Sandy Lenz, assistant pastor, shares about it.
“As I listened to my elementary KidZ Church children share about their parents and grandparents telling them not to expect much for Christmas, I began to look around my Sunday school room and realized I could not do something with the toys I had.” Lenz, a garage-sale enthusiast, gives every child the opportunity to take home a used toy each Sunday. This year, Lenz and others at RCC wondered if the church could do more for other kids.
Lenz placed an ad on Facebook Marketplace for used toys. The next morning, her Facebook Messenger inbox was so full, the response from people was so great, that Marketplace crashed.
So many toys were donated that the church held a toy giveaway on multiple dates, according to Lenz. Her best friend, who lives in Georgia, donated so many toys that Lenz rented a truck to transport them.
“After every toy giveaway, the tables were pretty empty,” said Lenz. “We followed up each giveaway with prayer.” She estimates that around 200 children received gifts this Christmas. Simultaneously, the church hosted a jacket giveaway and many kids who left with toys also left with a jacket.
“We received so many thank-you notes on Marketplace and stories of how happy the kids were with their toys,” said Lenz.
Bryant Wesleyan Church (BWC) in Bryant also met tangible needs in its community.
In recent months, a member of the congregation was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His health has declined rapidly, and BWC wanted to do something to encourage and serve him.
Around Thanksgiving, BWC began to promote a love offering for their friend. A total of $7,000 was donated; the church added another $5,000 and the women’s ministry and youth group added another $700. Other individuals heard about the opportunity and over $3,000 more was given.
“By the time we gathered at their house to deliver the gift, to pray and sing Christmas carols, the total was $17,000,” said Rev. Paul VanCise, BWC pastor. The church has also met some maintenance needs and provided meals for the family.
*Joe is a paraplegic BWC neighbor. Injured 20 years ago in a motorcycle wreck, he received tangible help from a group of BWC men by them hanging shelves, painting, insulating a crawl space and organizing his house.
For most of Joe’s life, he has been hostile toward God. But these regular connections with church attendees had a hand in helping soften Joe’s heart. Within the last year, Joe placed his faith in Jesus.
BWC hosts an annual Christmas party for residents at a local residential home. Church staff and volunteers pick up the 18-25 residents and bring them to the church for dinner, bingo and entertainment (singers, comedians, magicians, etc.). Gifts are given too.
This year, due to COVID protocols, residents could not leave their housing facility. So the church creatively and carefully took the party to them, complete with local first responders appearing with their trucks lit up with Christmas lights.
The local town board (town of 250 people) delivered gifts to community children and asked BWC to partner with them by putting together something that shared the story of the real meaning of Christmas, complete with a coloring page that explained Jesus’ birth, along with a poem, a Christmas story told with emojis and an invitation to attend the church’s mid-week ministry.
Faith Wesleyan Church (FWC) in Orefield, Pennsylvania, has hosted a live nativity scene for several years. With COVID restrictions, they knew they’d have to do something different this Christmas.
“God gave us the vision of doing a drive-thru ‘Road to Bethlehem’ with live actors and animals,” said Rev. Brenda Smith, FWC pastor. “We wanted to show our community the story of how Jesus came to be born as our Savior as well as provide a great family event in a safe environment.”
For three nights church volunteers depicted scenes in a Road to Bethlehem about Jesus’ birth and resurrection. First responders provided traffic assistance.
Guests were given a welcome packet with information about the church, as well as information about how to access a YouTube channel that narrated the nativity story as they drove past each scene. Scripture accompanied each scene.
FWC also partnered with the Lehigh Valley Business Group and Lehigh County Meals on Wheels filling shoeboxes for Christmas. Congregants donated hygiene products, clothing and games, along with handwritten notes. Children at FWC also colored pictures for each of the 100 boxes that were delivered to shut ins.
“We received several notes and cards of gratitude from the recipients for thinking of them,” said Smith. “This is an outreach project that anyone of any age in our congregation is able to participate in and be a blessing to others.”
Full Life Church (FLC) saw four baptisms at its Catskill building on Christmas Eve. One person baptized was a teenager, *Jacob. According to Rev. Craig Paczkowski, senior pastor, “This young man called the church about eight weeks ago. His family has a Greek Orthodox background, and he was looking to be water baptized. In the process of getting to know him and his father, I had the pleasure of sharing the gospel with him and Jacob joyfully gave his life to Jesus Christ. His favorite phrase to say is, ‘I love God, Pastor Craig!’”
Others baptized included some new members, including a wife who has been praying for her husband to place his faith in Jesus for years. Her husband made that faith decision in 2020. During 2021, the couple will hold a ceremony to recommit their marriage, this time with “the Lord in the center.”
FLC has encouraged participation in daily devotionals in a weekly email distribution and used Advent readings for services leading up to Christmas Eve.
“I loved having many of us in The Wesleyan Church bringing the same message this Advent,” said Paczkowski. “It gave me a sense of unity within our church and with our Lord Jesus Christ. The resources were godly, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled and professional.”
Since 2015, First Wesleyan Church (FWC) in Bartlesville has hosted a Christmas breakfast for community residents.
Rev. Belinda Selfridge, local outreach pastor, oversees putting the Christmas-morning event together. This past year, Selfridge knew they’d have challenges to overcome and protocol to follow because of COVID. But she still wanted to bring joy and smiles to area residents.
“This year it was especially heavy on my heart to serve folks who not only normally feel isolated, but due to COVID, have been even more isolated,” said Selfridge. “There is another ministry in town that usually hosts a Christmas lunch but cancelled. So, we wanted to make sure that folks had a safe place to go and a hot breakfast to eat. Our motto/mission is ‘No one eats alone at Christmas.’”
FWC attendees volunteered to serve at the socially-distanced and face-masked breakfast event, which included several residents from the community who don’t attend the church. FWC ministers across its multieconomic and multigenerational community, and those demographics were well represented at the event.
At Frontline Church in Grand Rapids, Rev. Brian Blum (lead pastor) said, “We talked about how in the Christmas story Jesus wrote himself into our story, the story of humanity, and our names can be written into his story for all of eternity. We invited people to receive Christ and be saved. Then we asked them to write their names on this giant banner in the room as a symbolic way of signifying the decision they had made to be written into his story for eternity.”
In-person worshipers wrote their names on the banner. The church provided a creative way for online worshipers to also have their names on the banner, as they could “write in from online.” Volunteers at the church then wrote the names on the banner of those who committed their lives to Christ via watching online.
Blum said they “continue to have more people watch the service that was posted online and write their names in.” The banners will stay up throughout 2021, and people can continue to write their names on it as they come to know Jesus. Blum noted that COVID has changed the way they do ministry and opened a door for creativity and ingenuity in ministry.
“I don’t think we ever would have thought to try something like this if it weren’t for COVID and the fact that more than half our church is watching virtually with us,” said Blum. “The difficult year we have had opened the door for a Holy Spirit-led innovation that has changed the game for us. From now on, I think we will always think about how to engage people online as well as in the room for big moments like this.”
*Names have been changed.