Turn Disappointment into Opportunity

Huge fireworks displays, parades, parties, neighborhood-wide events, or large family gatherings are all wonderful ways to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday!

And if you live outside of the US, you too will have significant occasions in your summer calendar… all of which this year look like being the proverbial ‘damp squib’ firework that fails to ignite!

Cities across the country have canceled public firework displays, while parks, lakes, and beaches will either be closed or under strict rules, and community events are widely curtailed.

And this creates a great opportunity for God’s people!

One of our tasks as Christians on mission is simply to demonstrate that we are FOR our wider community. God our Father is FOR us – He is not looking to play cosmic whack-a-mole with humanity – and so we imitate Him by simply being good news to our neighbors!

Ahead of this holiday weekend, here are some practical ideas that you could do. But don’t hang around! Discuss this TODAY with your family or a couple of friends, and pick one to go after. Then let neighbors know asap, pray your socks off, pull the practical steps together, and then see what Jesus will do!

Practically:

  • We use the term ‘neighbors’ throughout, since for many of you that is your primary place of mission. However, also think ‘colleagues’, ‘team-mates’, ‘friends’, ‘classmates’, ‘extended family’, etc.
  • Social distancing is assumed throughout – it is not that difficult to achieve. You will have some neighbors who are not at all bothered, and some who are very cautious. Your job is not to judge, but to make a safe space for all. By this stage, most people are well-used to navigating these dynamics, but it’s good to remind people that these gatherings will be honoring social distancing. As each of these is outdoors, the risk level drops significantly.
1. Front Lawn Drinks Party

Host an Independence Day drinks party in your front yard (or a nearby open space) – decide a time (we find early evening often works well, whether on Friday or Saturday) and invite some neighbors.

People will likely want to bring something, so say what you’ll be providing, and invite them to bring a favorite drink or snack with them. Put out a table (for drinks/ snacks to go on), and provide plastic glasses, bottle opener, napkins, ice, a cooler for chilled drinks, etc. Then scatter some chairs or rugs around, which can easily be socially distanced. If some neighbors tell you in advance that they’re coming, see if they can bring a few chairs.

 

2. Street Parade

If your social circle includes lots of children, how about organizing a little street parade on the morning of the Fourth? You don’t want hundreds of people there – imagine instead something that is very homespun, old-school, and fun for the kids!

  • Practically, look for a quiet street (a dead-end would be ideal), alleyway, park, parking lot or similar. Basically it needs to be a place where cars can be shut out for 15 minutes while the actual parade happens.
  • Put the word out by describing the event – “Acacia Ave Family July 4th Parade!” Invite children to decorate bikes, scooters, strollers, etc. Suggest ideas for doing this – streamers, flags, face-paint, red, white and blue clothing, etc. Give a gathering time and location, and a time for the parade.
  • Make sure you let everyone on the parade route know! Invite them to come outside to cheer and watch. Have a clear focal point, ideally with a flag flying. Say there’ll be a singing of the national anthem at the end of the parade.
  • Have someone create a playlist of patriotic music, and arrange for that to be played at the head of the parade. When you gather at the end, they can then play the national anthem (you might want to pick a shorter version if your group is small).
  • Whoever leads the parade wants to walk slowly! You might have some veterans who would be honored to be part of the parade, or some other neighbors who would be appropriate to include. If you know someone in law enforcement, they might be able to be there in their vehicle – flashing lights are excellent! Another option is to see if there is someone with a classic car they would be willing to drive (or have parked at the finish).
  • After the parade and singing, finish with some sort of fun drinks time – soft drinks, snacks, candy, etc. You might want to create ‘goodie bags’ for children if that helps people feel more at ease about social distancing.

 

3. Pray for Our Country

This is a simple gathering to take 10-15 minutes to pray for our country. Set a time over the weekend and a place (outdoors – a front lawn is ideal) and invite neighbors. Don’t restrict this just to Christians – throw the invitation out widely, and you might be surprised by who turns up.

  • To run a great prayer gathering, we suggest:
  • Spread out in family groups, about 6 feet apart
  • Quickly go around the circle and have each person introduce themselves, and invite them to say something about living in this country for which they are thankful to God (encourage them not to repeat what others have said!) It is easy to focus on the negatives, so it is good to begin with gratitude. After everyone has shared, ask, “Would two or three people pray a short prayer of thankfulness?” – you might want to have one person primed to model this (emphasise brevity!)
  • Talk about coronavirus and Covid. Ask people what they would like to pray about related to this topic. After that, again invite several to pray on behalf of the group.
  • There is a great deal of tension, passion, and strong emotion in the nation around the topic of racial reconciliation. These are complex issues, without simple solutions. However, we believe that God’s created all of us, and that He likes different colors and races of humanity! We need His wisdom and intervention, both personally and also as a society, in order to see a truly unified country. For this portion of prayer, invite people to stand in silence for a minute, and privately pray about people or situations that are on their heart, and to be attentive to things that God might be saying to them personally. At the end of that minute, pray a prayer that is unifying, honest, and yet hope-filled.
  • It is important to pray for our leaders – local, state, and national. Emphasize this is not a party-political thing to do, but rather we do this for leaders regardless of whether or not we agree with them. Invite a few people to pray for them.
  • End by speaking a blessing over the group. You might want to use the words from Numbers 6:24-26.

 

4. Fire Pit Fourth

If you would prefer to gather with just a few others, why not invite them to a Firepit Fourth? As the name suggests, in the evening you gather around a firepit to chat, make S’mores, sing songs, and simply enjoy being together.

You could suggest that each person comes ready to share an experience or story that has something to do with living in the US – it could be funny, serious, unusual, or simply an insight into what drives them.

By the way, if you don’t have a fire pit, check out these ideas for making your own – some are VERY portable (e.g. #12!) or will work for a one-off occasion!

 

5. Social Distance Picnic

Host this on someone’s front lawn or in a local park.

  • Simply invite neighbors to bring their own seats/ blankets, food and drinks.
  • Provide some extra drinks and finger foods, and bring some hand sanitizer.
  • Make some fun decorations – flags, balloons, stars and stripes napkins/ cups etc – and some simple games (e.g. plan a July 4th quiz!)

 

6. Organize Yard/ Street Games

Invite your community to come and play some (socially distanced)) games. This could be in a park or across various front yards.

The following are examples of games which can be played (and maybe need a little adaptation for your context) while observing the 6’ rule.

Have some hand sanitizer near by for those games which share equipment, and perhaps some music going to make the atmosphere more jolly!

  • Sidewalk chalk games – Chalk out some games on sidewalks and driveways. Ideas include hopscotch, a labyrinth, or a fun course where you have to jump/ hop/ twirl/ star jump/ run/ touch your toes/ walk the balance beam, etc.
  • Obstacle course – Give instructions for what people need to go around, over, under, etc.
  • Sleeping lions – Kids lie down and keep still as long as they can. The person who stays still the longest wins! And every parent thinks you’re a genius!!
  • Musical bumps/ statues – While the music is playing everyone dances. When it stops you drop to the floor in a sitting position (bumps) or stand frozen (like a statue). The last to drop to the floor or become a statue is out. The final person left wins.
  • Have a dance-off.
  • Corn hole.
  • Create a quiz or scavenger hunt where people need to answer questions and/ or find certain things in order to gain a prize.
  • Create fun races – with a potato on a spoon/ a three-legged race/ carrying another member of their household, etc/
  • Charades – people act something out (movie or whatever) while others guess.
  • 2 truths and a lie – Someone shares two real facts about themselves and one made up thing. Others have to guess which one is the lie.

ACTION STEP

What are you going to do to live on mission this coming weekend? 

If you have an idea we’ve not listed, please share in the comments below! 

 

 

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Both together and individually, we (Alex and Hannah) have been speaking in many contexts, both large and small. Examples include:

  • Sermons for weekend services
  • Mid-week teaching for the whole church
  • Training in specific topics (e.g. hearing the voice of God, developing missional life, or making disciples)
  • Coaching elders and leadership teams, especially as they wrestle with strategic decisions in this time
  • Individual coaching for church pastors
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  • Working with denominational or network leadership as they plan new ways to resource those they lead and serve 

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