This is a special edition of MMQ dedicated to the annual community Walk for The Hungry, which took place yesterday afternoon. I had a group of three walkers, which is two more than I had last year but scores less than our church used to get. I want to pick this thing apart.
A brief history. Time was when our congregation recruited dozens of participants for this event. At least this is the story I’m told. A couple of decades ago, scores of people would raise money and walk, bringing along their kids in what was a vibrant expression of church mission in the community. After some time, the Walk turned into a youth group event, where dozens of teens who had done the walk with their parents as children now did it without them as teens. The church was behind them 100%.
The start of my work here coincided with the last gasps of the Walk as a youth group event. My first couple of years would see between two and five students respond to my pitch for walkers. Then I hit upon the idea of making it a youth leadership vehicle, so I recruited a particular go-getter student to recruit her friends to walk and to raise money in the congregation. That worked really well.
After that student graduated and went off to college, the student leadership model didn’t exactly thrive. So much of what worked was the particular student and her unbounded enthusiasm. Absent that, it was a job.
So here we are. The Walk is no longer a thriving church mission event, no longer a marquee youth event, and not even a clever student leadership mechanism. My three Walkers yesterday are champs, yet they’re frustrated as well. What do we do?
Pull the plug? Do we acknowledge that the energy is no longer there in the congregation for this and stop trying to compel participation?
Re-commit? Do we double down on our efforts? Start recruiting earlier, make more phone calls, really push hard to get either adults or teens to come out? It works for other groups; lots of church and school groups come out for the walk, many of them in matching T-shirts and all kinds of energy.
Give it away? Is there another group in either the church or, say, the church preschool that might have energy for helping the community through the event, and can we set them up for success?
A big part of me wants to pull the plug. But it feels wrong to give up on an important vehicle for our church to be out in the community in mission.
What do we do?