Invite people from different faiths and all walks of life to come and enjoy themselves at your gathering. Sponsor your event in the spirit of mutual respect and understanding, and with fostering friendships in mind. Sharing good times and making good memories together is often the first step toward meaningful relationships and dialogue with other members of your community. Below, we've listed some ideas to spark your imagination when planning your next community get together.
Family Movie Nights
These days, many churches are equipped with video projection equipment and movie screens (if you don't have these things, they can be rented for a small fee). Why not invite your friends and neighbors to share a family movie night with your congregation? Pick an appropriate movie and encourage everyone to bring a bag of popcorn or other healthy snack. If the film is thought-provoking, consider preparing a few questions for discussion afterward - it is often interesting to hear different reactions and perceptions, which may then foster further dialogue between people of various faiths.
Concerts and Open Mic Nights
Does your religious group have sound equipment and a good-sized room? If so, you might consider asking a popular local band or chorale to come and put on a concert, possibly in tandem with one of your church's own musical groups. Open microphone nights are also a great way to bring creative souls through your door -- local musicians, writers, and others are always looking for places to display their talents.
Women's and Men's Conferences
Sponsor a conference on men's or women's issues for a weekend at your church. Line up speakers and presentations concerning the things specific to gender that each of us deal with on a day to day basis. Try to find people to speak from all walks of life -- not just academics and intellectuals. Over the course of a few days, you'll be amazed at the bonds that can form between people with the proper guidance. Many churches provide lodging and meals for conferences of this sort, charging only enough to pay speakers and cover expenses.
Get Healthy Initiatives
With the rising rates of heart disease and obesity in both adults and children in the United States, what are you doing to help your community live healthier lifestyles? Sponsor an initiative for a week or a month to get healthier for your community at large -- this will likely require some advertising, so budget accordingly.
A great way to get healthy is to do it with friends -- sponsor nightly games like volleyball or basketball, and weekend hikes, bike trips, and weigh-ins. Ask local gym teachers, fitness experts, and nutritionists to host nightly classes on how to get fit and eat right, and open these classes to the public. Involve local businesses by asking them to donate healthy prizes for your top exercisers or weight-droppers.
On a sunny summer Saturday, host a block party in your neighborhood. Talk to you local police department beforehand and ask them if it will be possible for you to section off a road in the neighborhood for a day. Encourage local supermarkets and businesses to donate food, drink, fireworks, and things like bubbles and kites for children, and invite your local community to come and join you! Set up a wiffle ball tournament for the afternoon, and arrange for local musicians to stage an early evening show. With a little careful planning and some hard work, you can host a party that will engage your entire community and leave them talking about your church for years to come!