Once a year, Parkside Church in Bakersfield, Calif., experiences a mass exodus of people leaving the church. Only they are not leaving for good. They are simply going across the street for “Church at the Park.” With chairs and blankets spread out across the grass and the cover of trees overhead, the event includes upbeat music and a message from the Bible. After the worship service, the church provides a free lunch and fun activities for all ages.
At the most recent event, an inflatable bounce house and an obstacle course provided entertainment for the children. Teenagers had an opportunity to showcase their skill in the inflatable jousting ring. Adults enjoyed live music in the shade.
Church at the Park isn’t just a fun event for church members and their families. The church sees this event as a bridge to reach the surrounding neighborhood. One volunteer commented that, “Many people are intimidated to walk through the doors of a church. But it’s easier to get people to come to church at the park. It’s a way that we can bring the church to them.” Members of the congregation post upcoming park events on community calendars and distribute door-hanger invitations in the neighborhood.
The church has hosted other themed events at the park as well. The first event was “Christmas at the Park,” which drew about 80 people. “Picnic at the Park” grew to more than 100 people. After several years of hosting similar events, Church at the Park consistently attracts more than 300 people. Lead Pastor Chris Bennett says: “Church at the Park is our way of showing God’s love to our community. We simply want to provide a free and fun event that the whole family can enjoy.”
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