July Fourth is a great opportunity for the church to get outside its own walls and engage the communities we live in.
By Catherine Renfro
Fireworks, barbecues, block parties, and more. July Fourth is America’s largest summer celebration, and there’s no shortage of things to do and gatherings to attend.
Two years ago, a group of friends, who made up the core team of a church plant we were soon launching, gathered on the evening of July Fourth at our home to grill hotdogs and hamburgers, hang out, and shoot off a few fireworks. As kids ran around with sparklers and everyone gathered on the front lawn to watch the evening sky light up, something caught my attention.
Our next-door neighbors came outside to watch what was happening. Neighbors across the street came outside and began lighting their own fireworks. Before we knew it, there were lots of conversations, laughter, and ooohs and aaahs among our friends and several neighbors as we compared firework displays that burst into the air.July Fourth is a great way for people to get to know their neighbors and a great opportunity for the church to get outside and engage the communities we live in. Click To Tweet
What we intended to be a spontaneous hangout among great friends became an opportunity to get to know neighbors in a neighborhood we had not lived in for long and to build relationships that would continue to grow over the years to come.
July Fourth is a great way for people to get to know their neighbors. It’s especially a great opportunity for the church to get outside the walls of the buildings we gather in and engage the communities we live in. Here’s how:
1. Plan a gathering
Research shows more than 80% of Americans celebrate July Fourth. Most people are either planning to do something or will be looking for something to do. As followers of Jesus, we have an opportunity to invite people into our lives for the purpose of getting to know them, serve them, and ultimately point them to Jesus.
Maybe your family gathers for a meal, or maybe there’s a race or other fun July Fourth event taking place in your community. Whether hosting something at your home, attending a festival, or any other ideas you may have, plan a way to gather with people to get to know them and let them get to know you. This leads to a vital next step.“As followers of Jesus, we have an opportunity to invite people into our lives for the purpose of getting to know them, serve them, and ultimately point them to Jesus.” — @CatherineRenfro Click To Tweet
2. Extend an invite
I recently talked with someone who said they had never gone out to lunch with friends or been part of a true group of friends, outside of family. Many reading this article may wonder how this is possible. But the truth is, there’s a large void when it comes to community.
In December 2021, Barna found “31% of U.S. adults report feeling lonely at least some of each day.” As the church, we have an incredible opportunity to welcome people in, just as Jesus has welcomed us.
The first year we hosted the Fourth of July gathering at our house, we invited a family with two small children. It was the first time we spent a significant amount of time with them. And they got to know us and some of our friends. Later, they told us the July Fourth gathering made their family want to be part of Hope Church. It’s amazing what Jesus can do through a simple invitation.
So, who can you invite to attend the gathering you are planning for July Fourth? Is it your neighbors? Is it a coworker? Maybe it’s families who are new to the area. Pray about it and extend an invitation. At the least, those you invite will be grateful you thought of them and cared enough to invite them. But maybe they say yes and join you. Then what?
3. Be intentional
When I think about the church gathering in Acts 2, I don’t envision anything fancy. I simply envision them being intentional. Acts 2:44-46 reveals how they came together, served one another, and shared meals together. And, as they did so, believers were encouraged, and new believers were added to their number daily. Intentional acts of hospitality and intentional conversations open doors for building gospel-impacting relationships.“Intentional acts of hospitality and intentional conversations open doors for building gospel-impacting relationships.” — @CatherineRenfro Click To Tweet
The most natural things to talk about on July Fourth are food, summer plans, and fireworks. These are easy conversations that take little effort. But what if you use your gathering to truly get to know those with whom you are connecting? Ask good questions and allow space for those you’ve invited to share. You’ll find it makes a difference to people when others care to hear them and learn more about them.
Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Your July Fourth gathering is a great opportunity to love and care for others the way Jesus does.
Since our first annual July Fourth gathering two years ago, we’ve gotten to build relationships with many of our neighbors, had opportunities to serve them, and a few of them have come to church with us. This year, we’ll do the same for no other reason than to continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a community that needs Him.
So, what are your plans for July Fourth? Whether you are firing up the grill, shooting off bottle rockets, or taking your kids to get their faces painted at a nearby festival, invite someone to join you, be intentional to serve them, and build relationships that will ultimately point others to Jesus. You never know how one act of intentional hospitality can lead to a conversation about the hope you have in Jesus.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Catherine serves as national director of women’s evangelism for the North American Mission Board. Her husband, Chris, pastors Hope Church, a two-year-old church plant in Alpharetta, Ga.