Changing the Meaning of “Church Service”

Bethel CRC in Brockville, Ontario, has left the building. Rather than seeing a teen summer mission trip as a mountaintop experience, they are working to build serving into the DNA of the congregation.


Students from Bethel have participated in Youth Unlimited’s Serve many times and have taken it home to help reach their own congregation.


Pastor Jack Van de Hoef and his team planned three days of worship, prayer and serving with a total of 10 very local work sites. Here is the report in his words:


Most of the sites involved revitalizing properties and creation care (pretty fancy words for pulling lots of weeds). We also helped out at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore because the damp weather interfered with our outdoor painting projects. Two of the sites were through our local social services agency; the others were through our own church connections. Only two of the sites were for members of our church. 


We set it up much like Youth Unlimited’s Serve, with devotions in the morning, work for the day, supper together and worship in the evening. We slept in our own homes. It made for a long day, especially for our seniors, but no one complained.


On Sunday morning, participants were invited to share their thoughts of how they saw God at work. The comments included appreciation for the inter-generational experience and the blessing of seeing the look of appreciation on the faces of those we served. There was the joy of serving, of experiencing teamwork, of coming back to church after a day of work and knowing someone had prepared supper for us.


It was a very positive experience. We will see how the Lord continues to bless our church through this. I’m sure the impact will be felt beyond this one week and into the other 51 weeks of the year.


Thank you for the theme material on Isaiah 58.  I gleaned from it to prepare a handout for the morning devotions (with credit being given to Youth Unlimited). I also used the idea of living out of the centre of normal for our Friday evening worship. Instead of a speaker, I interviewed three members of our church who volunteer on a regular basis for different community agencies. I introduced them as three normal people, doing normal volunteering as their service for the Lord and his kingdom.


I could probably say a lot more, but this gives you an idea of how things went. 


Thanks again for your support. 


Blessings, Pastor Jack


To see a video of Bethel CRC’s experience, click here.