It gets me every year.  A sight I have seen many times before, but one that continues to evoke strong emotions… the sight of thousands of suburban Christians gathering together on a brisk autumn day.

They stand together and sing worship songs, full of energy and excitement.  But these “suburbanites” are not gathering for a church service… They are gathering to be sent out.


Click on the image to see a very cool 360 degree panorama of Grace’s Weekend of Service Commissioning!

Every year, Grace Community Church closes its doors, cancels its weekend services and sends its congregation out to serve with organizations and ministries outside the walls of the church.

My food collection team gearing up to collect food in a north-side neighborhood.

This year, more than 4300 volunteers signed up.  These volunteers headed downtown to serve meals.  They painted murals for ministries serving lower-income youth.  They collected thousands of pounds of food from homes all over the north side of Indianapolis.  In all, there were 175 different projects over the weekend.

But the cool thing about the Weekend of Service is not the amount of work that gets done (as helpful as that undoubtedly is).  The cool thing is that 4300 suburban Christians had an opportunity to rub shoulders with ministries and individuals serving the “least of these” (Matthew 25).

Sure, more than 30,000 meals were packed for Kids Against Hunger.  Hygiene kits were packaged for The Relief Bus in NYC.  Winter clothes were distributed to homeless folks in Indy.  But in the process, thousands of suburban Americans with every excuse in the world to ignore the poor and marginalized got up close and personal for a weekend.

A look at some of the food collected for the 2011 WOS! Photo by Brad Doran (

Who knows what long-term change was started this past weekend?  Who knows what chance encounters have launched people into a lifelong journey towards justice?

Just a quick look at the comments left on Twitter shows that many WOS participants were deeply influenced by their experiences.  Suburbanites getting involved in social justice… Just about my favorite thing in the whole world!


For many, the 2011 GCC Weekend of Service was undoubtedly a satisfying end.  But for some, it was a powerful new beginning.

For the next few days, volunteer journalists from GCC will be sharing with us some of these stories of “first steps.”  Each of them embedded with a different Weekend of Service project, and now they’ll be sharing what they discovered.

I hope you’ll take the time to listen to their stories.  Who knows? Perhaps it will prompt a “first step” of your own!

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Julie B said... 


    November 10th, 2011 at 2:14 pm  

    I can’t wait to see where these experiences will take people for God in the long run!

  2. Jo Nading said... 


    November 10th, 2011 at 2:26 pm  

    Definitely one of my fav weekends at GCC. Love it. We’ve done something different each year. Three new ministries outside our church walls have our hearts and our support. How can I NOT fall in love with social justice victims??? And how then can I not fall in love with those organizations who work and move to speak truth to the world while addressing the needs of the least of these. Can’t wait to hear more stories. Thanks for bringing us news from WOS.

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