AMY KASS LEADS HER CHURCH IN A BUY NOTHING EVENT

If you are searching for a Community Outreach Idea for your small church, this is it!

It’s free. It’s relational. And it’s a pure gift to your community.

I feel completely blessed to have met Amy Kass through The Creative Little Church website. She reached out to me by email, joined our Creative Little Church Facebook Group, and I finally got to hear her voice over the phone today!

I’m inspired by her life story, her forward-thinking, and her depth. 

This interview is full of practical tips for hosting a phenomenal community event.

  • Raise community awareness of your church
  • Create space for building relationships with your neighbors
  • Do good for the world by meeting needs with your unused stuff

AN INTERVIEW WITH AMY KASS, FROM MARYSVILLE, WASHINGTON

Amy, it has been so great getting to know you on-line and through the facebook group, but it is fun to finally hear your voice! And I’m so glad it matches your picture – you sound as energetic and joyful as you look!

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOU.

I’m married with two kids. My son Riley is 13. And Alice is 3.

For Family Nights we hit the local racetrack on the weekend and watch our friends race. It’s so much fun.

And this time of year, the rest of our spare time goes to home improvements and yard work. We live north of Seattle, Washington, just an hour and a half from Canada … and it rains a lot!

So while it’s still sunny and warm, we cram in all the outdoor projects we can. And I love to garden. This year it’s raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb and kale. I’m swimming in Kale – not sure why I did that, but I did. I have lots of Kale!

HOW ‘BOUT YOUR CHURCH, CASCADE CHRISTIAN REFORMED?

So on our roster we have over 100 members. This time of year we have 55-60 people coming to Cascade CRC on a Sunday.

We have a larger building because we weren’t always this small. The local Christian school uses our gym for basketball practices and activities. And our building gets rented for community events.

For me, I was born into this church. I’ve gone to this church my whole life. I love these people because they have always been there for my family, both growing up and now that I have my own family.

They have supported and loved us through a lot of life stuff.

I’ve been thinking about our church and really wanting more young families to join us. Our church is not a place where you just come and sit on a Sunday.

We want volunteers. We want new ideas. We want to grow.

I know everyone doesn’t want that – some people just want to come and sit, hear a sermon, and leave. But that’s one of the things I love about our church. It’s a place to get involved.

SO, I SAW YOUR POST ABOUT A COMMUNITY EVENT YOU HOSTED AT YOUR CHURCH. 

Yes, we have been cleaning out our church, literally cleaning out decades of stuff we never use!

I’m part of a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) denomination, and we are known for a pretty proud Dutch history.

As Dutch people, we have a reputation of not getting rid of anything!

We use something once and think, “Oh, we can use that again…” and it ends up in a storage room. So you can imagine cleaning out our church!

Our denomination’s boys and girls groups still had stuff from the 1980s. Like tons of trophies and camping gear. And I don’t think the Cadet group has gone camping since the 90s!

We had all these big chalkboards from when we replaced them with whiteboards years ago.

Why did we keep them? What did we think we were going to do with them?

Old furniture donated to our youth room, a hide-a-bed couch, a wheelchair…there was so much stuff. Storage closets, cabinets. We filled a whole classroom with stuff we hadn’t used in decades and really never would!

SO WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GIVE IT AWAY? YOU MENTIONED THE BUY NOTHING PROJECT AS YOUR INSPIRATION

Yes, my inspiration definitely came from the BUY NOTHING PROJECT. If you don’t know about this project, it’s basically a movement that connects people with their immediate neighbors using facebook groups. People in a BUY NOTHING COMMUNITY post things they have to give away. And they ask for things they need.

From the Buy Nothing website: “The Buy Nothing Project is about setting the scarcity model of our cash economy aside in favor of creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us.”

So as we were cleaning stuff out of the church, I just kept thinking of my relationship with my BUY NOTHING COMMUNITY. Because my church is not in my immediate community, I couldn’t really give stuff to my Buy Nothing group. 

So I got our church connected with their local BUY NOTHING COMMUNITY, and instead of having a garage sale, we decided to give stuff away. 

Initially I thought others from the Buy Nothing Group would bring their stuff too. That didn’t end up happening this year, but they were still my inspiration!

I was really excited to bless the community. I thought this would be a great way to connect. 

SO WHAT DID YOUR FREE GARAGE SALE LOOK LIKE?

Our church has a big grassy lot and a big parking lot. When I tell people what church I go to, people don’t really know where it is until I describe the lawn and parking lot!

We basically took all our stuff and set it outside. We put signs out at 8 AM and people just kept coming.

We bought Garage Sale signs from Home Depot and wrote “FREE” on them. We also made some extra signs on poster board that said “EVERYTHING FREE.”

Oh my goodness, I wish I had pictures of people’s faces as they asked, “How much is this?” We just kept saying “It’s free!”

Really? “Yeah! It’s all free.”

They got all wide-eyed and couldn’t believe it.

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU MET A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM YOUR COMMUNITY

Yes, I’ve been thinking about it so much for the last few days. Even now processing out loud with you, it’s the first time I’ve put some of this into words.

The first two men came with scruffy beards and 2 little dogs. They took our old camping stuff and put it in their truck. Then they helped us pull a couple heavy couches out of the building into the parking lot because they saw we were having trouble moving them.

I was so surprised by the different people that showed up.

It was exciting to help people and meet needs I didn’t even know were there. And also a little sad that there are so many people that really need more than just free stuff from us.

It was really eye-opening and sobering. Maybe that we are not doing enough to know who is living in our community and even what needs are out there.

Our county has a huge Opioid Crisis and I saw a little of that. It was a lesson for me in taking a deep breath. I’m personally not accustomed to having a face-to-face conversation with someone who is homeless or under the influence, but these are needs in our neighborhood.

You never know what people’s stories are. 

I JUST HAVE TO ASK, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OLD WHEELCHAIR?

Well there’s a story there!

A guy rode his bike over with no shirt and no shoes. He was younger than I am (and I’m in my 30s) … he asked, “What is all this stuff?” And I said we are giving all this stuff away for free. He was shocked, and said his girlfriend is pregnant and might like a stroller.

I found out he has 4 other kids and a foot injury – and he’s not supposed to even ride a bike because of his foot. He went home, brought his girlfriend back, took the stroller, some baby toys, and the wheelchair!

Then there were a few people who didn’t even tell us their stories… but said as they were searching for needs said, “This was such a blessing. You have no idea.”

And all this blessing, just by putting out unused stuff from our closets!

HOW DID YOU ADVERTISE YOUR BUY NOTHING EVENT?

We only advertised on facebook. But after we scheduled our BUY NOTHING EVENT, we found it out it was the same weekend as our all-city garage sale. 

The organizer of the All Marysville Community Garage Sale heard about our sale and asked if he could pin it to the Community Sale as well. So we had advertising there too. 

We are on a really busy street. And as soon as we started putting up the GARAGE SALE signs people were pulling in.

WILL YOU HAVE A BUY NOTHING EVENT AGAIN?

Yes! This year was an experiment but I really do hope to do it again!

Now that we cleaned out a few decades worth of stuff from the church, we won’t have that to give away. But if we start in July and clean out our individual houses, I think we will still have great stuff to give.

IF ANOTHER SMALL CHURCH WANTED TO DUPLICATE THIS EVENT, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?

I would say if they are looking for ways to reach into the community and draw people in… well, putting a bunch of stuff in the parking lot with FREE signs is really effective!

I’ve been on the outreach committee for 4 or 5 years now.

We’ve tried family events, trunk-or-treating, VBS, and more. We have a few people show up and maybe a couple dozen families – but it’s not quite right, not the result we are looking for.

But this was amazing! We had people coming in and out all day long. And so many conversations.

Signs went out at 8 am and we had people coming and going until after 2 pm. 

Now, no one new came to church the next day. And I know we want to measure success like that.  But we met real needs. And we had real conversations. And people know our church is here!

I think this was about focusing on the moment and the conversations with people who are just here now. 

I THINK THERE’S A LOT OF VALUE IN THAT. IT SOUNDS A LOT LIKE JESUS TO ME.

Yes, it’s been a conversation in the church for a few years now… why are we measuring our events by who’s coming to church?

I think we need to intentionally change our mindset to forget about who’s sitting in the pew for a little bit and focus on who’s in front of us right now. And what we can do for them right now. 

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY?

Since it was our first year, we didn’t know what to expect.

But next year I would love to see more of our individual church members participate. So there’s more than 5 of us meeting all the neighbors in our community. There’s so much to share!

I WANT TO CLOSE THIS INTERVIEW WITH AMY’S OWN WORDS FROM HER CHURCH’S FACEBOOK PAGE:

I just wanted to give an update about our free event yesterday. As you know, we’ve been cleaning out areas of our church that haven’t been sorted through in years – Pastor Blake mentioned 10 years but it was really like 30!! – and slowly we filled up classroom three in the education wing. God absolutely worked in the timing of this event. We ended up scheduling it for the same weekend as the All Marysville Garage Sale, and I think that led to much more traffic than if it had been any other weekend. 

We helped a woman whose home recently burned down. She also just found out that her young daughter is 20 weeks pregnant. She said multiple times what a blessing this was to her. Another woman is a teacher – and a creative one! She will be using our old hymn boards for her classroom to display the alphabet! A young couple was expecting their fifth child and took a stroller that was donated, and an old wheelchair that had been sitting in our closet for probably decades! 

Some of these folks would blend right in if they were sitting with us today. A few of them were people that we probably wouldn’t strike up a conversation with if we were standing next to them in the grocery store checkout line, if we were honest with ourselves. But our old forgotten belongings blessed them yesterday!! We got the chance to interact with people in our parking lot here whom we wouldn’t have known otherwise, and my friends, some of them live right across the street! I would love to see us take this opportunity and participate as a whole church next year. I’m sure some of you also have closets with unused items! 😄

Thank you for your support for this event over the last couple months – it was exciting, but also a lot of work!! Please also thank Laurie, Becky, Irene, Mary and Kristen for all the time spent preparing, and then the hours spent standing in the parking lot, talking with people and giving our old, unused stuff away!

CHANGING OUR MINDSET FOR COMMUNITY OUTREACH

There’s a lot of depth in this event and in Amy’s vision. So many conversations I would love to continue:

  • How should we measure success of outreach events? By the relationship moments & meeting needs (right now), or by who shows up in the pew (tomorrow)?
  • What about the needs in our communities – are we truly aware of them?  Even in our immediate neighborhoods?
  • Can a small church leave a big footprint by following God’s nudges and creatively using our resources beyond our own walls?

If you want to continue these conversations, would you join Amy and me in The Creative Little Church Facebook Group?

We want to see Women in Small Churches coming together for support, encouragement, ideas, and friendships. Click here to join: WOMEN IN SMALL CHURCHES – The Creative Little Church Community Facebook Group.

FOR OTHER COMMUNITY OUTREACH IDEAS, CHECK OUT THESE INTERVIEWS FROM A FEW OTHER SMALL CHURCHES LIKE YOURS:

A VETERAN’S DAY SERVICE PROJECT.  A church outreach idea from Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Perfect for your women’s ministry or youth group. 

HOST A WOMEN’S MINISTRY PAINT PARTY AT YOUR SMALL CHURCH. From Granite Quarry, North Carolina: Learn how to host a successful Paint Party for women at your small church. No experience required!