The Mayfield West campus of Renew Church in Ontario, Canada (Bartley Sawatsky, lead pastor; Wade Rininger, campus pastor) started around the same time as Butter and Cup, a local coffee shop and bakery run by Mike and Genevieve Amaral, who attend Renew Church.
It wasn’t a coincidence.
“One of the reasons we planted Mayfield West in this neighborhood is because we had a relationship with the family and wanted to work together to be a light in the community,” says Wade Rininger, campus pastor of the Mayfield West. “It’s kind of a unique thing because it’s a partnership. We don’t have any legal ties…it’s their small business, and we want to help it be a viable business. We also want to use it strategically to reach the neighborhood.”
The partnership is unique – instead of putting a coffee shop in the campus of their church, like many churches, Renew aims to use the business as a “third space” –common ground where people who might not be comfortable in a church setting can feel at home.
This Christmas the partnership goes beyond coffee and conversations. Saturday afternoons during the month of December, the Mayfield West Renew is running a Christmas Cheer Booth outside Butter and Cup, designed to simply spread joy to their surrounding community. (The Metaville campus is hosting a booth as well.)
“For the month of December, Pastor Sawatsky is preaching a series on “How to Have a Joy Filled Christmas” series on Sunday mornings, going through the book of Philippians,” says Rininger. “We wanted to give some tangible ways for our people to experience joy, and also try to share joy with other people. So we came up with a Christmas cheer booth.”
For four hours on Saturday afternoon in December, customers and passersby alike are met with a warm, welcoming tent, full of games, prizes, Christmas music, and volunteers in festive hats who will wrap presents for free. People who stop in will get an invitation to the Christmas Eve service, and, depending on how their luck settles, a “dad joke,” a lump of coal, or a gift card.
Rininger says it isn’t as much about inviting people to their church as it is practicing spreading the joy that knowing Jesus brings. And it’s working. People who walk by find the tent emanating warmth – both from the space heater and the smiles on the faces of the volunteers from Renew Church.
“Especially in our culture and context, sometimes people can be a little skittish. You have to build trust with them,” Rininger notes. “Usually someone wants something in return, right? The people who stop in to the tent have been blown away that all of this is for free and we’re just doing it to show love.”
It all fits with the church’s theme – a joy-filled Christmas, and with Renew’s larger aim as well.
“It’s building good will for the church and the neighborhood, and it’s spreading the name of Jesus.”
Click here to send a note of encouragement to Pastor Wade and the team behind the Christmas Cheer booth.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.