Building Community Outside the Church Walls

This past Sunday, First Congregational UCC in Glencoe hosted its third annual “Spring Fling,” an free outdoor music festival that Pastor Adam Thompson originated in 2021 as his internship project. The event was so well received that it came but for a second year – with double the audience. While numbers are not yet in for 2024, Thompson says, “Word on the street is that it will likely again double in size.”

This year, the intergenerational event featured a stage for two bluegrass bands—literally set on the steps of the church—a food/brewery truck, and a lot packed with yard games, bouncy house, and family fun activities.

When Thompson joined the church as a newly licensed pastor, he had just completed a course on innovation. He took that knowledge and applied it to the situation, seeking to re-establish the church within the community, to get the whole church outside the building, and to reinvigorate the congregation’s sense of service and mission. “Oh, and we wanted to have fun doing it!” he adds.

Thompson says, “Our church wanted to say two things to the community: One, ‘Hey, we’re still here’ and two, ‘We appreciate Glencoe!'” He says that a secondary purpose of the event was to raise awareness and money to support a mission organization or social justice cause. The chosen organization or cause is given time to speak between sets and a free will offering is collected. This year’s Spring Fling raised money and awareness for Common Cup Ministry.

Thompson says that while the event is intergenerational, the number of families with kids participating has grown the most. “The activities area keeps expanding as well to accommodate a wider range of ages and interests,” he says. “We also moved to a more local focus in terms of sourcing supplies.”

As he assesses the impact of the event, Thompson says it has revitalized a connection between the church and community. Members are not only volunteering with the event but with other service opportunities. He also says the youth have taken ownership of the facepainting and temporary tattoos tables and that awareness of the church within the community has grown. “We have been seeing more people coming to check us out during Sunday worship,” he says. “I have heard from community members outside of the church an appreciation for including the whole of Glencoe and beyond, not just for this event but for other community wide events we have begun as well.”

View more information and photos from the event on the church’s Facebook page.

© Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ | 2023