Usually, the person with a birthday receives presents. But when New Hope First Baptist Church in Cedar Park turned 150 years old, they decided to do things a little differently.
Instead of focusing inwardly, the church decided to make monthly gifts to the community, according to Birthday Committee Chair Kristin Pierce. The church gave to one organization per month starting in October 2017 and culminated with a big celebration on October 21, 2018.
“At first, I was worried about how I would lead it off, but God made it clear that He wanted to use this moment to be a light to our community,” she said. “We wanted this to be about God and His glory and not about us patting ourselves on the back about, ‘Look how great we’ve done for so many years.’”
Pierce said God put together a committee of about 15 and they took the lead on various community gifts. The gifts included: a food drive, a baby item collection, a blood drive, Veteran’s paver, adoption of Fire Station No. 3, participation in the Heritage Festival, clean-up at city parks, adoption of a Cedar Park Police Station, participation in the 4th of July parade, adoption of LISD Administration Support Services and a book drive.
As New Hope Church leaders prepared to embark on the birthday gift fundraisers, Pierce said there was concern that they might be asking too much from an already generous congregation. But, instead, the church leaders were overwhelmed by the response.
Pierce said that they would call the organization they wanted to bless and asked what their greatest need was and how the church could help them. They tried to focus on groups or individuals that are often overlooked.
“Each of these gifts surpassed what I thought our members would be willing to do,” she said. “We had huge turnout for the food drive and really for everything. January is Sanctity of Life Month, so we did a baby item collection drive and the organization receiving the gifts were stunned by all of the items collected.”
Another project that they did was serve the Cedar Park Police Station.
“We broke up the divisions of the police station and committed to pray for them and collect things that they needed,” she said. “We ended up with 20 or 30 buckets of hand sanitizer, beef jerky, tissues, mints, pens and other things they can have with them in their patrol cars. We also delivered various goodies to them like breakfast tacos, baked goods and meals. And they devoured those things!”
Pierce said she was blessed to see the hand of God throughout the whole process.
“We were able to build or strengthen relationships with lots of different organizations,” she said. “A lot of the groups were surprised by our gifts and were always very appreciative. In the end, I think everyone felt that giving back was definitely the best possible way for us to celebrate what God has done for us.”
Pierce shared a list of tips that you and your church can consider if you are thinking about celebrating an anniversary by giving back to the community:
Start with prayer. “Pray about it and make sure this is God’s will and he will start to make your vision and heart bigger,” she said. “Pray that it would not be done to glorify the church, but rather to glorify him.”
Bring it to the attention of your church leadership or the proper channels and make sure you can lead this project or hand off the idea to someone who can.
Do a lot of research and see what ideas are out there. Not every idea will fit your church and community.
Meet with leaders to decide what the best ideas are and how to execute.
Pick out a theme and set a goal. “In our case it was, ‘Our story is still unfolding,’” Pierce said.
Put together a committee. Have information meetings and present ideas with them so that together you can finalize plans and share the burden. Surround yourself with intelligent, experienced people. Make sure a variety of gifts are represented in committee and break tasks up based on skills and experiences.
Remember to plan everything far in advance. Things don’t always go the way you expect so it is best to be as prepared as possible.