Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Table, and Some Other Ideas

So, some of you have heard me mention something called The Table, which is in West Linn, Oregon. And if you've looked in the phone book, it's probably not there.

Found with Yahoo Image Search
 That's because The Table is a program put on by Willamette Christian Church. It isn't really mentioned on their website. In fact, I learned about it through word of mouth... one of the best marketing tools around: people. Someone in my family mentioned it to others of us in the family, since they have attended there for a while. And then, those people told me about it, too. I've told others, and the friends I saw today were there, in part, because I told them about it.

So, what IS The Table, you might be wondering...

The Table is where people come and have lunch together after their regular Sunday service, and while there, there is an area where the groceries Whole Foods has given the church for the week to share with the community.Whole Foods, like a lot of stores, has a commitment to helping serve their local community in differing ways, and I think its wonderful of them to work with Willamette Christian Church in this way.

Found on THIS Leadership Site
So, what's the scoop on all of this? You might be asking...

Well, the scoop is, a lot of places that have food really target people under a specific, verified income, discounting that sometimes people have to use what money they DO have for other purposes than groceries. That is where Willamette Christian Church, and The Table, are different. Thanks to Whole Foods, people who are in that in-between group as well as whomever else comes for the Sunday (they are rarely closed more than a few times a year) has a way to fellowship s well as garner a few groceries that help spread the budget out.

What might that look like?

Well, for me, that means I can buy better quality meats or juices because I don't have to spread grocery money as thin. I try to concentrate on things I would never spend as much money on as they have at The Table, like cereals and dairy, before going for things I would normally buy. I've actually found quite a few things that I really enjoy that way...

FreeFromHarm.org
One week, I might come away with about $50.00 of groceries, and the next, it might be $120.00 - it all varies and no matter what, everyone that wants to have groceries can do so. For me, this is helpful, but I find the fellowship most helpful. People connect; they get to know each other; and in this day and age, the age of computerized everything, that is a great thing!

On a final note, please keep in mind that this is NOT being shared so that people can come and piecemeal the place. It is my hope that by sharing this, you can gain some ideas for what YOUR church might be able to do, or if you work for a company that values supporting the community around you, perhaps what your company can do in conjunction with a local church or other organization.

The Table works for this particular community. it's a huge blessing to those who have extenuating circumstances that the world doesn't necessarily need to know about, and to those seeking fellowship at the same time. For those who have a lot of medical bills, who have had to downsize due to economic hardship, who may just need to stretch the grocery money in order to know they can pay other bills on time, and other such things, The Table has played a large role in helping to alleviate some of life's stressors.

Something like this will not work everywhere. Different churches and community outreach centers, etc. have different goals, and as such, should tailor their outreach endeavors to the community that they truly serve while also working within the confines of their goals and the mission and values of their establishment.

For your church, something like The Table might work if it was altered.

Perhaps you serve youth, or children. What if you partnered with one to three stores or farms that have overabundance and share it with those kids and their families? If you're in a low income neighborhood, this might be a great way to minister to the local community.

What if your church serves a population of elderly? Maybe you could partner with something like Meals on Wheels, where some of your seniors are part of the program but some of the younger adults volunteer to serve.

Another alternative to food would be emergency supplies. If you live in a particularly cold or hot climate, or where there are are a lot of earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or tsunamis, what about partnering with someone to get emergency kits put together for vulnerable parts of the population in your area, or for your congregation? What about learning about the different types of weather patterns for your area and teaching those in the neighborhood how to prepare when bad weather strikes?

Another idea might be to create a community garden on part of your organization's property where members or neighbors can come together to plant, share, learn, and grow together as they grow crops. If you are in a low economic area, this might be used to help the homeless or those with less in the congregation or neighborhood on a trust-basis, while if you are in a more affluent area, the crops could be raised for people to give out to those on the side of the road with their hungry signs.

Do you live in a fishing town? What about if those who understand something about fishing help those who don't, and those who understand beach gardening teach those who are looking for help, and etc? What if instead of freezing all of your extra fish, you gave ONE to someone in need each time you came in from fishing? What if, instead of keeping all of the extra fruit and veggies you've grown, you give a small portion of it away? This not only helps others, but it helps remind us that giving in itself is a gift.

Maybe you aren't a food-based church; maybe you want nothing to do with gardening, or working with people on emergencies or with everyday needs. But what if you have an artistic group of people who love to sew, quilt, paint, and so forth? What if some of those creatives agreed to help teach others the skills they need in order to create, too? Or what if, once or twice a year, the organization held an auction of some of the items created so that the proceeds could go toward helping others?

These are just a few ideas... I'm sure you've got others rolling around by now if you've read this far.

And there are some who might be thinking, what's the point of giving? I know that there are lots of people who see giving in order to bless others as counterintuitive. Why give, when we can keep? Well, giving is something that blesses us as well as those we give to. Every time we give, we are twice-blessed, and when we are consistently giving, we are consistently becoming more and more blessed.

In God's economy, giving is synonymous with receiving. We are told it is more blessed to give than to receive, and to give away all we receive. God never allows us to out-give Him; we can never do it. The more we gift to others, the more He gives back to us... and while it may not be of the same "substance," it is of a greater one, because it has come from the very hand of God, with His blessing.

So, today, I had a great time at The Table... giving others the gift of fellowship (barefoot) over a wonderful meal given to all of us who were fellowshipping. And I am grateful... so I wanted to give the experience away to the degree I can by sharing it with you, along with some ideas for how you can help improve the lives of others around you, and in turn, your own.

UPDATE 7/16/13-- COME OVER and check out my FUNDRAISER! Journey to a Thousand Voices...