August is here. And that means your church calendar is once again packed with classes, activities, Wednesday night dinners, and choir practices. August also means it’s All-Church Picnic and Fall Festival time—which, for most of us, involves blowing up the bouncy houses, filling up the dunk tanks, and cooking up some burgers. It’s fun, yes . . . but if you’d like to freshen up your fall event, see if these ideas inspire you (if not for this year, then for next!).
Add a Pinch of Local
Instead of serving the traditional burgers and dogs, Frenchboro Congregational Church (Outer Long Island, Maine) holds an annual Lobster Festival. The festival is so popular, a special ferry is scheduled to help transport the hundreds of people who come to the island, although most people take their own boats. Frenchboro’s event is not only a great example of how to give your event local flavor, they’re also proof that you don’t have to be a big church to put on a big event; the population of the whole island is sixty-eight.
Illinois is a long way from fresh seafood, but fresh corn? No, sir! Community Church’s Cornfest (Rolling Meadows, Illinois), has been a time-honored August event since 1957. You can have a hamburger, hot dog, brat, and watermelon, but what sets this event in a class all its own is the main course: All-you-can-eat sweet corn, locally grown and picked mere hours before it is served. A craft show, musical entertainment, and fun for the kids round out Cornfest’s activities.
Stir it up
Who says you have to have an afternoon or evening event? Clinton Presbyterian Church (Clinton, New Jersey) officially welcomes the new season with a Fall Kick-Off Breakfast in September, which immediately follows a Sunday morning service. Cross Creek Church (St. John’s, Florida) also hosts a Sunday morning Fall Kick-off Breakfast in September, but has scheduled their event so that it wraps up just in time for everyone to attend an introductory Sunday school class.
Spirit Garage Church (Minneapolis, Minnesota), so-named to illustrate their welcoming spirit, takes its mission to heart when it comes to their annual fall picnic. The picnic is held at a park across the street from the church primarily so that others in the community feel free to join them for food and fellowship.
“It’s an outreach event,” says Spirit Garage founder and pastor Rob Norris-Weber. “We wanted to have a church without walls so this is an outreach event which actually lives up to the original concept of our name.” He says church members hand out postcards, take to social media and spread invitations to the picnic by word-of-mouth, encouraging everyone in the community to attend.
Let it Breathe
It’s not what Shadow Rock United Church of Christ does to prepare for kick-off fall activities that is unique—it’s what they don’t do: Anything. At least, during the month of July. The church believes that everyone needs an intentional time of rest, recreation, and re-creation, and so for the whole month of July, Shadow Rock closes for Summer Sabbath. No Sunday school. No worship services. No office hours (although a minister is on-call for pastoral emergencies).
Don’t you wish you knew more about Shadow Rock’s Summer Sabbath? You’re not alone. But as of publication, the church had not reopened and so we could not get in touch with them. If you’d really like to hear about how Shadow Rock’s congregation reacts, what their community thinks, if a month off really makes a difference, let us know in the comment section below. We’ll try to find out, and post an update!
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.