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Back-to-School Engagement

The GCI congregation in Queens, New York City, held its annual Back-to-School outreach. This year’s initiative was expanded to multiple weekends in August and September and featured an immersive open house approach that allowed each guest to see our ministry Avenues in action. We distributed nearly 400 complimentary backpacks full of school supplies, reaching hundreds of households in our diverse home neighborhood of Richmond Hill, Queens.

As we registered our guests, we offered a relaxed experience of our church community with a “journey” through a bilingual prayer table and meeting members of our various ministries, including Sunday School and Men’s/Women’s Ministry, before receiving their backpacks and enjoying a meal and music with us. We were blessed that so many chose to participate in prayer, receive encouragement, and learn more about our vibrant ministries. Some of our guests returned on subsequent Sundays to hear the transformative hope of Jesus in the stories of walking on water and the promise of forgiveness.

This year’s theme was “Jesus 4-Eva” with a logo designed by nine-year-old Genesis Phillips. We wore matching T-shirts (as pictured) to show our unity and dedication to the hope of Christ. Our hope and prayer are that the process of outreach and follow-up will facilitate the Spirit’s work in the community to build a genuine connection with Christ and our church. We have received the appreciation of some of our community leaders and local clergy for helping uplift and inspire the community.

Our pre-registration process revealed many of the circumstances and prayer requests of our potential guests and shaped the outreach. Our preparation included attending community meetings, visiting businesses, schools, and law enforcement. The entire initiative, which involved nearly every active member and ministry of the congregation, was a culmination of a months-long process of prayer and planning with the missional imagination of Christ at the forefront.

By John Newsom, Pastor
Queens, NY, US