GAINESVILLE -- What connects the unchurched to church members, constructs relationships in the community and builds bridges between generations?
Here’s one answer: Legos. Apparently, those interlocking toy blocks are the perfect icebreaker to bring strangers young and old together in the church.
That is what Celebration UMC found out when it recently hosted Lego Family Fun Night for the small surrounding community of Archer, just west of Gainesville. Greg Favazza, Celebration’s director of Family and Children’s Ministry, said the congregation was especially interested in reaching out to families with children.
“One day, our pastor, Rev. Melissa Pisco, dropped in my office and asked, ‘Hey, what about doing a Lego Night for [our monthly] Family Fun Night?’” Favazza recalled.
His answer? “Yeah, that sounds cool!”
The outreach was a huge success for the small congregation. More than 70 people of all generations -- 65 percent of whom were not church members -- came for pizza, popcorn, a movie and all sorts of activities involving the brightly colored blocks. The evening included building contests, group projects, Lego crossword puzzles and more.
Favazza, who was called to Celebration just a few months ago and is studying at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, was delighted to see church members mingling with new faces and older folks helping children at the many tables piled with tiny blocks.
“This was truly intergenerational. We had someone here as young as 2 and as old as 80,” Favazza said. “The amazing thing is how people of all ages can converge around a plastic block. It was awesome seeing our church come together like this.”
Favazza said that before anyone in ministry at Celebration presents any idea, they ask themselves the “so that” question.
“We did Lego Night ‘so that’ old relationships can be nurtured and new relationships with our surrounding community could be formed in order to create an opportunity to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” he said.
Those introductions built around Lego toys are already creating lasting relationships, he said. And they have already seen church participation from some of those who turned out for the event.
“I feel that creating relationships creates a more open ear,” said Favazza, a father of two young boys. “We are all trying to figure out how to equip families to experience Christ. How do we do it together? How do we raise our children in faith?”
Favazza said church members donated new and gently used Legos for the occasion. Organizers used social media, including Facebook posts, to promote the event, as well as advertising at their annual Easter egg hunt. They also researched their local community and the demographics using the MissionInsite data tool available from the Florida Conference Congregational Vitality office.
“What works for us may not work for you. You have to know your community,” Favazza said.
Celebration is surrounded by families with children, so the Lego and pizza night was perfect to get the attention of young families looking for no-charge, low-maintenance family activities on a Friday night.
The event, unintentionally planned on national Lego Week, was such a success that the congregation expects to turn it into an annual event, Favazza said. Until then, church members keep looking and listening to their community to try to meet the needs of the people who surround them.
Favazza said he is grateful to God, as well as his wife, Christina, who helped create the event and clean up afterward. As ministry director in a newly created position, he said he also is thankful to the church for investing in community outreach.
“This is just our context,” he said. “We provide a place for families to disengage from their busy lives and spend some quality time with one another.”
– Julie Boyd Cole is a freelance writer based in Gainesville.