By Jim Nieman
With school resuming and families settling back into a routine, South Rock Christian Church has planned an outdoor community worship service at a city park through which it hopes to reach hundreds of unchurched people.
This Sunday’s event, dubbed South Rock ONE, “is all about reaching people who don’t know Christ and/or don’t have a church,” said Rick Wheeler, lead pastor with SRCC, located in Derby, Kan., a few miles south of Wichita. The church averages about 1,300 in weekly attendance.
“We’ve done outreach events off-site, but never a worship service,” Wheeler said.
“We sent a letter to all of our members [and] explained the reason for this event in the park is so people who don’t have a church home can come experience South Rock in a neutral place.”
This past weekend, the church mailed out 20,000 invitations to everyone in Derby and the nearest town, Wheeler said, and now “we’re encouraging members to follow up with their neighbors, friends, coworkers, classmates, etc. It’s a major evangelistic event for us.”
South Rock ONE will be more than a worship service. The church also will serve a free breakfast—pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit—starting at 9:00 a.m. and ending shortly before the 10:30 a.m. service. Games such as volleyball, cornhole, and 9 Square will be set up between the breakfast and worship venues.
“We’ll also have canopies set up for information, decisions, and security/medical (just in case),” Wheeler said. There will also be a “Rooted” canopy where volunteers will provide information about the church’s discipleship program and folks can register for it.
Morning worship “will be much like our normal services, with a little more music and a couple of testimonies added,” Wheeler said. Worship will last until about 11:45 a.m.
A SUDDEN CHANGE IN PLANS
South Rock Christian Church has been planning this event for about a year, but it morphed rather dramatically and suddenly two months ago.
The “Fall Kickoff” idea originated in a staff meeting, Wheeler said. The thought—and plan—was to have it at the high school football stadium the Sunday before the first home game. (The high school football team, by the way, has won three of the past five state championships.) Everything was planned—tailgate party in the parking lot, testimonies from a coach and star player (both SRCC members), packed stands—and then . . .
“About two months before the event we were told we couldn’t set up our stage on the field or the track surrounding the field. That wasn’t in the contract, but I totally understand,” Wheeler said. “We don’t want to be known as ‘that church’ that ruined the football field.
“So, we had to come up with another plan. We decided to use the biggest park in town.” High Park should work well because of its amphitheater and ample parking.
“It did cause us to change our football theme, but the change of plans and location didn’t dampen the spirit at all.”
The date stayed the same; Aug. 25 “is less than two weeks after school starts . . . [when] traveling slows down and everyone is back on the weekends,” Wheeler said. “The weather should be cooling down a bit.”
A “football theme” carryover is that the back of each mailed invitation is a “ticket” upon which guests can provide contact information. The tickets will be collected in buckets on Sunday, and a drawing for prizes will occur at the conclusion of the service.
South Rock ONE will take the place of the church’s normal three weekend services this weekend. A Saturday night “pep rally” at the church building has been planned for volunteers and those who may not be able to make it on Sunday. The pep rally will include worship, a devotion, and prayers for the success of the next day’s event—and especially for those who need to know Christ.
“We’re all excited about the opportunity,” said Wheeler. If South Rock ONE is successful, “we’ll probably do it annually.”
THE NEXT BIG EVENT
South Rock ONE will be a prelude to the church’s “Great Day of Service” on Sept. 29. On that Sunday, volunteers will gather at the church for a short service before they “spread out across town to do work projects for people in need.”
“Last year we worked in 84 homes, as well as parks and schools,” Wheeler said. “The night before the event there will be a concert by I Am They in our building as kind of a pep rally. It will be an exciting fall.”
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.