Michelle Remmenga spends time with her sponsored child during the Village's mission trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2005. It's trips like these that help church members see the importance of a missions program.
Four years ago, there was something missing at the Village Church in Highland Village, Texas. Membership was increasing, the staff was energetic, but there was something lacking. "The Village," as it's known in Texas, had a mission to spread the light of Jesus everywhere it could. But how to get church members involved in spreading God's love throughout the world? Little did they know it would take a group of children thousands of miles away to reveal the answer.
In 2004, the Village Church held its first Compassion Sunday event. As church members looked at the faces of hundreds of unsponsored children from across the globe, their worldview began to change. All of a sudden, missions had a face and a name. And it was this personification of missions that allowed the church to wholeheartedly commit itself to serve globally.
"Before our first Compassion Sunday, we had only a Mexico mission trip every year, and very few people ever went on short-term missions," said Claude Drury, the Village Church's Compassion Advocate.
One Compassion event later, the church conducts five short-term missions trips annually - two trips to Asia and Latin America and one to Africa. And in the last two years, the church has sent out six full-time missionaries.
"Missions is no longer an obscure program at the Village," says Claude. "It is the life blood of our church."
On the Village's trip to Guatemala this summer, several Compassion sponsors will finally have the chance to hug the children whose pictures and drawings have long been displayed on their refrigerators.
This opportunity to see their missions work in the smiles of impoverished families, to hear their missions work in the songs of children in need energizes the church's commitment to spreading the gospel worldwide.
To further engage its congregation in the Great Commission, the Village hosts Compassion Emphasis Month. During this time, the church incorporates information about Compassion in sermons, in testimonies from church members, in video presentations, and even on a table containing the pictures of Compassion children waiting for sponsors.
In the past three years, more than 700 children have been sponsored through the Village's Compassion Sunday events.
"When our people see news in the area of the world their sponsored child lives, they listen," says Claude. "They are now thinking globally. Thinking globally is causing them to want to do more globally."
Personify Your Missions Work
Many churches would like to jump-start their missions programs. Advice from members and staff at the Village: Personify your missions with a name and a face and watch that program grow!
"Child sponsorship has helped our people to think globally and has invigorated our mission's focus," says Claude. "(Compassion Sunday) breathes life into a church when a pastor speaks out on behalf of the poor and allows the people to sponsor. It is exciting to see the passion our people now have for helping the poor when they become sponsors. The relationship with the poor has become real and personal with a face and a name. Poverty is no longer a problem but a person, and that person, one child, can be helped by one sponsor."