Block Party takes a gap year in 2017

“What is the purpose of the Block Party?” This question guided discussion for a gathering Christ the King members (many of whom have worked closely with the Block Party in recent years), staff, and council on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. To answer this question, the group started at the beginning, or rather the Block Party’s beginnings.

Growing origins

The Block Party emerged over a decade ago as an event for the congregation and our Local Mission partners. While the event drew anywhere 200-400 people on a Sunday afternoon, those in attendance were more likely to be guests than members of CtK. As this trend continued, the Block Party and those leading it knew that a shift in focus and execution was necessary for the event to continue.

This shift came when Pastor Deb helped to shape the event into a midweek community night about 5-6 years ago. Instead of a member-focused event, the Block Party turned its gaze out to the neighborhood and invited people into our space. Crowds more than tripled under this new “neighbor-focused” model.

Despite the Block Party newfound success, the question still remained as to its purpose. And, it’s a question that continues to be a point of contention among the event’s longtime enthusiasts.

Current purpose and challenges

Close to ten different purposes were named by the group present to discuss the future of the Block Party on Jan. 11. These ranged from
  • Forming community and relationships with our neighbors,
  • Simply being with our neighbors and enjoying one another’s company (Fellowship),
  • Offering the gift of hospitality, food, and fun for our neighbors,
  • Giving our neighbors the opportunity to get to know CtK, and
  • Using the Block Party as a means of bringing people into the congregation.
After almost an hour of discussion, it became clear that the event had distinctly different purposes for different people. Though the group leaned towards the purpose of hospitality and fellowship, no clear singular consensus stood out for the group as a whole.

In addition to the lack of consensus around the purpose of the event, the group also named some other significant hurdles that the event has faced in its most recent iterations including the burnout and volume of volunteers, questions about leadership and sustainability, and concerns about cost. (Each year, the Block Party requires months of planning, close to 100 volunteers, and costs between $7000-9000.)

“Let’s put our money where the needs are”

More than once, the group came back to the question that, “If our goal is to reach out and be with our neighbors, is there a better way to do that?” The group proposed a litany of ideas focused on reallocating resources into things we are already doing. Ideas included:
  • Repurposing the Block Party to be a part of National Night Out
  • Hosting a summer outdoor concert series around our beautiful albeit underutilized fire pit
  • Offering more scholarships for neighborhood kids and youth participate in CtK trips and activities
  • Using the community garden and Wednesday meal as a means of building community

Going forward

As the purpose remained elusive, the group discussed the potential of taking a year off from the Block Party. This would allow for greater listening and strategizing around this event. A yearlong hiatus would also allow for us to respond to the work of the Listening to our Neighborhood group who recently began meeting with congregation and community consultant, Joy Skejstad.

Please watch for further communication about continuing discussions on how to be with our neighbors. Your input is valued and desired.

The next discussion on how to be with our neighbors will be during Sunday Adult Learning Time (SALT) on Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9:30 a.m. Joy Skjegstad will share the emerging plan of action for reengaging
with our community in a way that will help CtK move more fully from transactional to relational community
ministry. This is a follow-up to the initial “Listening to our Neighborhood” presentation in the fall.