Nothing is as invigorating as autumn: the crisp air, falling leaves and cloudless skies. Fall is a perfect time to capitalize on the zip in the air by mobilizing your congregation to reach out to the community beyond your doors. Here are some cool fall projects that can recharge people’s batteries after the long, hot summer:
Rake and run. Rake a congregant’s yard without them expecting it. Take your junior high or high school youth group to the home of a member who may have a hard time raking leaves. Pick someone who will think having a bunch of kids in their yard is a hoot. Good contenders are those who have volunteered for youth events in the past or hosted a gathering in their home. Maybe they just like to spoil kids with candy on Sundays. Whatever the case, go unannounced and rake their yard as fast and quietly as possible. Use your best judgment on a good time. Just know that most youth will agree that this stealth act of kindness is usually done by ninjas under cover of night. When the mission is complete, leave a note on the front door that has been signed by all participants.
Set up a blood drive. Talk to your local chapter of the American Red Cross about how to conduct a blood drive in your church. Summer is always a slow time for donations, while the increase in summer accidents uses up much of the supply. Fall is a great time to replenish the supply.
Make the most of your pumpkin patch (if you have one). First United Methodist Church in Humble, Texas, hosts a Pumpkin Patch and Crafts Fair. This is a great way to sell your pumpkins and reach out to your neighbors!
Host a day of cooking. Prepare meals for sick, homebound and elderly members. Poor nutrition is a problem for many older adults. Talk to a dietician or caterer in your church and solicit four or five basic soup or casserole recipes. These professionals can help you plan for quantities; typically, one casserole will yield several meals for an older couple or a single person. Keep in mind the special nutritional needs of seniors when you’re cooking. Also, avoid nuts and shellfish, which top the list of food allergies.
Stock the freezer for the winter. Once your cooking day has produced numerous small meals for congregants in need, invest in aluminum-foil baking dishes to store the meals in the freezer. Make sure you have at least two shelves in your church freezer that can be devoted to the program. Put away casseroles, breads and desserts. You might want to post a log on the outside of the freezer for congregants who want to prepare donations at home and bring them in. Ask that they log their dish, along with its ingredients and date of preparation. Also, include a space on the log for members who are visiting sick or homebound people to “log out” a freezer dish to deliver.
Your cooking can benefit people of all ages! Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., has a Frozen Assets programin which congregants can pre-order meals; this program has been touted as a great way to relieve weekday stress on young families.
Plan fall workdays. Use this time to help older adults with leaf raking, gutter cleaning and attic or basement cleaning. First United Methodist Church in Richardson, Texas, has a Sunday afternoon work time they call The Great Leaf Off.
Helping individuals — whether elderly, widowed or just overwhelmed — with home projects is not limited to youth groups. A men’s group at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Rock Hill, S.C., created a Band of Brothers. In addition to times of fellowship and Bible studies, this group does large and small repair projects in people’s homes.
Autumn offers the ideal climate to re-energize your congregation. Many of your members have likely traveled during the summer; use the refreshing fall weather as a backdrop for reconnecting members and engaging them in meaningful projects in service to others.