Organizing a weekly kickball game, holding a worship service at a local community garden, learning to knit and following a theological reading plan were all a part of Andy Balzer’s summer experience at the Well Mennonite Brethren Church in Dartmouth, NS. Balzer was a participant in Summerbridge, an eight to 12 week service program for young adults from a diverse cultural background. It is funded by MCC and local Anabaptist churches and invites congregations and applicants to get creative about how to better connect their church and their community.
“I learned what it looks like for the church to reach their neighbourhood with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I developed relationships with members of the Take Action society, with whom the church partners, to improve the quality of life in the North Dartmouth area,” Balzer says. “Through all [my] experiences… I have been learning how to grow as a disciple and help others do the same through serving on mission together.”
Summerbridge lasts a relatively short time, but it can be a significant experience if you are prepared to make the most of your time there and go all-in.”
His major priority for the summer, designed in partnership with his congregational mentor, Pastor Adam Greeley, was to pursue and help the church answer three questions:
- How do I become more attentive to God's voice and respond more readily to His Spirit? (Love God more)
- What long-term life choices will allow me to most effectively guide people toward God? (Love people more)
- How do I best share the gospel with my words and actions to the people around me? (Love more people)
“When I observe the Take Action society, I see the kingdom of God advancing through their efforts. They aren't a Christian group, but their aim of restoring the community is in line with what God wants,” Balzer says. “I also want to live in the way Jesus taught and demonstrated so I can represent him well to those who interact with me. My success therefore, lies in how I get people to think about Jesus rather than how I get them to think about me, which is both humbling and relieving for me to know.”
Balzer says he appreciated having a pastor invest in his spiritual development and walk with him through the practical side of living out of the Gospel in his community.
“Summerbridge is a great way to learn through apprenticeship,” he says. “You can expect opportunities to lead, so take advantage and ask for help when you need it. Summerbridge lasts a relatively short time, but it can be a significant experience if you are prepared to make the most of your time there and go all-in.”