Memorial Day picnic gives vision of the larger network

Posted by Martha McIrvin | Published June 5, 2017

Memorial Day picnic gives vision of the larger network

On a bright May morning, Aaron and Kathy Keller arrive at Brookside Park for the annual Memorial Day picnic. As they unpack their basket, the church family begins to arrive, setting up griddles and coffee stations. The morning begins comfortably, and unfolds into a delightful time of good fellowship and good food.

The Memorial Day picnic has become, as Caleb Keller puts it, “a fun tradition, with a deep and important purpose, which is network coherence and identity. The picnic was started in 1980 when Aaron and Kathy Keller began meeting at the park on Memorial Day with a few friends and their young children. They did it again the next year, and the next, and as friends were invited the picnic grew until the whole church was coming. Aaron spoke of the impact this picnic has had on him over the years: when it began he was a young father watching and listening to his children play. After 37 years, he is now watching his children listen to their children as they play.

Hebrews 10:24-25a says “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” This picnic has an impact on our lives as we interact with one another, and this stems from its very nature. The fellowship of the picnic is casual, laid back, and an integral part of our network of churches. Steve Kemp adds, “Good things don’t happen unless you give occasion for them to happen.” As we gather for breakfast, there is a natural, easygoing environment where we can invite friends and introduce them to the larger network. Young and old, leaders and members, all mix and enjoy the camaraderie of a day in the sun (or sometimes rain, but that has rarely stopped us). In fact, this intergenerational interaction is Kathy Keller’s favorite part of the picnic. As she looks around and enjoys the picnic, she sees college students playing with the young children. The family of families interacts as families do, from the gray hair down to the newborn.

There are few logistics required to keep this endeavor going. We need to keep reserving the shelter and make sure it is on the calendar. It takes just a few people to stick around until the end of the picnic to gather the lost and found and leave the shelter in good condition. This small sacrifice of time is insignificant when compared to the impact this event can have on our church family. Chad West spoke of how this picnic was instrumental in teaching him about the family of families shortly after he came to the faith. Our children are watching and building memories, and showing them a natural environment for growth and teaching will give them a foundation from which to grow.

As our church network seeks to equip the saints for the work of ministry and works toward unity of the faith, this picnic helps meet that need. As a larger network of small house churches, we can become so focused on our individual house church that we run the risk of losing touch with the larger network. This picnic can help stand in the gap and provide a bridge to the broader church network.


Posted In Ames/Des Moines Network