This summer, our congregation hosted two Love Avenue events: our second annual Carnivalfest and a Laser Tag Party.
I came up with the idea for our Carnivalfest a couple years ago inspired by the desire to bring back local events that had stopped happening in our community. There used to be an annual 4H Carnival and a Community Fest in town and those just slowly went away, hence the name Carnivalfest. I had lots of fond memories from them as a kid. I knew we needed to reach out to our community and thought this was a great way to make this happen as a congregation. As a congregation we are committed to involving every age group in the planning and hosting of these events. We need everyone to make this work.
The first year, our theme was the Armor of God. It was a huge success. By the time participants made it through each game or station, they were taking the whole Armor of God with them home. After the first carnival, we were sitting at the GCI conference in Dallas and the theme for our next carnival came to my mind: Mysteries of God, which turned into the Miracles of God Carnival. Even though I love the miracles from the Old Testament, I wanted people to see the whole picture of what Jesus had done for each person.
When you started through our Carnival, you walked in and were met by a huge rock mound, with a stone that was to be rolled away as they entered the tomb. The next room was dark with a bright light in the corner with a tomb with the words written “he is risen” and the cloth laid upon the tomb empty. This room had a fog machine to give it the full effect. They then went through the black plastic to an open room with bright colors and a display of taking a walk with Jesus. This is where the parents signed them in, with phone numbers and signed our waivers, received a crown of their choice, received their “God is especially fond of you” bags and our church information. Then Pastor David set them in our crowning chair and crowned them a child of God with: “Know that you were formed a child of God, placed in his heart and placed in this world for a purpose.” At this point they could play laser tag or walk through our Red Sea, welcomed by Moses. We had a photo booth, with take-home pictures with the name Carnivalfest 2021 Community by Grace. We had many games, a face painting booth, handprints (laminated with a magnet), Donut Bobbing, Cake Walk, Balloon Stomp, Cave walk to the Fiery Furnace and a Maze that brought you through to the Big Room. Each one of our booths had a miracle attached to it. The maze was dark and long. It took a good five minutes to get through it, and halfway through they changed it up. Everyone had a great time.
One of the highlights was seeing all the teens and adults coming together to work on booths. The hardest part for me was letting go and being ok with kids and teens taking creative license—things didn’t have to be perfect; God is not looking for perfect people. I had to be ok with whatever they produced for me! I knew it was in God’s hands and from the beginning I had to remember that. Too many times kids do things and get a “that’s fine,” or “that will work,” instead of a “Yes, great work! God would love it! Thanks so much for being here to help.” We have to meet them where they are instead of expecting them to do things exactly as we would. As a congregation, we live that, no judgment, none of us are perfect. God loves us and meets us where we are, and Jesus is present in our lives whether we accept it or not.
Several members of our congregation shared photos, insights, and highlights for weeks after the carnival on their Facebook pages, Snapchats and Instagram. We have had one new family start coming since the carnival, but when we have a game night, laser tag, or bonfire, everyone from the neighborhood shows up, whether they have been attending church or not. I feel this is great–we are meeting them where they are.
Even though our regular attendance is low sometimes, we have about 75 to 80 attend our church when they can or an event is planned.
My sister, Niki Katzenmeier, has been a huge asset to our church, since she moved here in June. She came up with the idea of laser tag and we planned it together. We purchased 32 guns and batteries and started gathering big boxes, used our half doors from the maze and put black plastic up and turned off all the lights. We used our whole church area. In our eating area, we had the laser gun table set up with waivers. While the first bunch played we would get the second bunch set up with the rules. Anyone who was not playing still could enjoy visiting with the parents, or the visitors. During the first event we had a make-your-own-pizza station, which was a huge success as well. Thanks to Niki’s help we were able to make this event happen.
Niki has also completely revamped our bulletin board, so we have sign-up sheets for all the events, church service, anything we do! It’s bright and pretty. We also have included a spot for prayer requests, and all our upcoming events are added to the board. People want to get out and need to see who we are!
Love Avenue Champion