Building community connections with Lego
Knowing your community make-up and assessing the needs of the community surrounding your Church is paramount to being able to meet their needs.
Berowra Uniting Church has come up with an unique community engagement event that meets the needs of the largely young-family demographic in its area. Plus, this annual event is building intergenerational links. The Field of Dreams’ adage — “if you build it they will come” — aptly describes this successful community event.
Eight years ago, Berowra Uniting Church’s Sunday School decided it wanted to support a Compassion child named Maria. Minister Ingrid Robertson and member Jacqueline Berry came up with novel ideas for fundraising, but one was very successful — Lego.
“In that first year we did a heap of different things to try and raise money for Maria, like car washes and bake sales,” explains Rev. Robertson. “There was also a little Lego display.
“Jacqueline was running JUMBUC’s (Berowra Uniting Church Sunday School) and is a big Lego fan. They decided to have a Lego display and encourage people to come and give a gold coin donation.
“After a while, we decided we didn’t want to do car washes and bake sales — and [we wanted to] just concentrate on the Lego idea.
“So, we have been doing the Lego Exhibition ever since. This also ties in with monthly markets that we run. What started small has morphed into the Exhibition and Competition for pre-school and primary-aged children. The Exhibition is open to school-aged children, all the way up to high schoolers and adults.”
Due to its popularity, the entire day of the Lego Exhibition fully funds Berowra’s support of Compassion child Maria.
No separate parts
There are no religious requirements to the construction and exhibition. However, each year as Rev. Robertson herself has become a bit of a Lego builder, she has constructed religious scenes which are also on display.
“We have the nativity, the birth narrative, the angels and shepherds,” explains rev. Robertson. “We have the Last Supper. Originally I was going to put in a new religious-themed construction every year, but it kind of fell by the wayside.
“We don’t make a feature of this, necessarily. The [religious scenes] are part of the overall exhibition. We’re quite deliberate with this because the story of our faith is part of the world and not separated from it.”
The event engages with community families, as well as people from outside the suburb. “Last year we had people from about 13 suburbs, which was a record. We advertise through the local schools around the area. We also advertise through the local paper and the rest of the advertising is done through Church networks. Social media also has been really helpful.”
Rev. Robertson explains that some families have come to Church as a result of the exhibition, generally to Easter and Christmas services and play groups. But she stresses that “in many respects it is raising awareness and there is not necessarily a commitment to come to Church. We also do Messy Church and advertise this at the event.”
City and Country connections
Berowra has plans to help other local Uniting Churches who are looking to replicate the event in their area. Excitingly though, Berowra is looking at going even further afield with the community engagement strategy.
“We are looking at taking it on the road next year,” says Rev. Robertson. “We’ve looked at possibly doing one each year in a rural setting and making connections with Cowra Uniting Church. We haven’t confirmed dates with them yet. There’s enough people involved that we can bring a scaled-down version to a rural Church and help them engage with the kids in their community. Lets face it, most kids have and love Lego.
“We have found a couple of other Uniting Church people who are big Lego people and who now work with us. Baulkham Hills Uniting Church and Quakers Hill Uniting Church have expressed interest in doing a Lego event in their area.”
So what started in Berowra has spread to Baulkham Hills, Quakers Hill and possibly Cowra next year.
“There’s no community centre or town centre where people gather, where people come together and chat and enjoy each other’s company and have something that all ages can do. Part of the reason why we do the Lego event is to create a positive place where the community can meet. For us, Lego is one of our intergenerational activities,” explains Rev. Robertson. “Grandparents love Lego, and their kids used to play with Lego. Lego is still one point of connection where they spend time together and have fun.
“Church is part of the community [in Berowra]; we’re not segregated. But this, for us, is one way of reconnecting, and also a way of providing something the community will support. That they will want to come and see and, in that way, share some of who we are — in a non-threatening atmosphere.
“We’ve not been covert with our intentions. We raise money for [Compassion sponsored child] Maria; we showcase the creativity in our community and beyond.
“Our intention is to provide a space where adults and kids can come and share a bit of joy and, by doing that, we show them who we are and what we have to offer.”
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