Can – or should – Christians do non-evangelistic events for the community?
This was the question the leaders of Kyiv First Church of the Nazarene discussed as they planned an event together with Kirche in Aktion (KiA), a Nazarene church in Frankfurt, Germany.
About three years ago, Kyiv First Church moved to another part of the city and it took a while to find ways to connect with the new community. In 2015, a group from KiA came to help with construction on the church, but besides helping with physical construction, they also noticed they could help the congregation build relationships with people outside of the church.
In Frankfurt, leaders of Kirche in Aktion (Church in Action) center their calling and activities around their dream: bringing and witnessing “Heaven on Earth.” It was this dream that motivated them to start reaching beyond their city by sending teams all over the world to serve people.
This summer, KiA sent out 10 teams.
“Serving others is one of the most important tasks and most fulfilling tasks for the follower of Christ,” said Robert Stößer, project manager for KiA. “Whenever we serve and think more of the needs of others than our own, we grow spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.”
The KiA team joined forces with Kyiv First Church to serve their community through a series of seminars on marriage. Then it was decided to widen the topic to a more universal concept: Healthy families make healthy communities.
Each night’s seminar focused on various themes related to relationships: non-violent and effective communication, conflict resolution, building a strong marriage, etc. The presentations were followed either by a question and answer time or a discussion among a panel of speakers who shared their own experiences and tips on how to handle challenges and problems.
“No matter which country you’re from, we all want to be loved and to love," said Sabine Wolf, a KiA team member. "However, being married is not always that easy. Sometimes we have to work a lot on our relationships. It was amazing to see all the people who came to the meetings with a desire to have healthy relationships in life and I personally have learned a lot during these seminars as well.”
It was decided not to brand these events as being sponsored by a church group because in Ukraine, where there is currently an abundance of false religious teachings, people are wary of some events.
The main purpose of these events was to meet the community and establish relationships first, being Christ to these people instead of simply telling them about Him.
“Since we’ve been working on ways to meet more people and to make a positive impact on our surrounding community, this was a great project to try,” said Sylvia Cortez Masyuk, an attendee at Kyiv First and Ukraine Learning Center coordinator (European Nazarene College).
While looking for a place to host the events, Kyiv First Church contacted a large, gated community complex within walking distance from the church. The idea was not only to offer free seminars, but to also partner with a local coffee house that would provide coffee and snacks and to meet residents, business owners, and employees.
“This project was our first event with this community and we look forward to partnering with them again in the future. We were also able to make great and lasting connections. We are so thankful for our KiA team and the lasting impact they are helping us make here in Kyiv,” said Cortez Masyuk.
The events turned out to be an interesting mix of serious, deep talks and moments of laughter when the speakers, as well as people from the audience, gave insight into their own relationship struggles, some of which could be quite amusing.
“We look back on a week of meetings with honest sharing of more or less intimate details of our own lives as married or unmarried [people] and were received with great hospitality and gratitude of providing a space in which insights and maybe even solutions to conflicts could be gained in the end," Stößer said. "Our team felt enriched by all the wonderful moments of trust and friendship that we experienced during our stay. We are very thankful to the amazing people who supported us every day from morning until night and made us feel at home in a way that cannot be put into words.”