When the Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Chanhassen received a large donation from one of its congregation members, the church was tasked with finding a way to share God’s love in the community. To do this, he created a program called Just a Little Something.
The program started small and focused on helping members of the congregation recovering from surgery, illness, or in need of a meal. The church then wanted to expand the program and when the idea of doing a little something for teachers arose, it evolved, said Kim Schaeferle, the church’s connections coordinator.
The congregation came up with the idea of creating gift bags for all employees of School District 112 in Eastern Carver County, including teachers, custodians, paraprofessionals, bus drivers and support staff. The church recognizes that district staff have faced a lot of stress and what they are doing is making a difference, Schaeferle said.
“We see them and we know they work really hard,” Schaeferle said. “We appreciate all the love and care they have given our children during this pandemic.”
A mission statement for the church is “to make disciples who make a difference,” Schaeferle said. Everything the church does comes down to this feeling and this effort is part of it. The church is trying to spread the love in the community to people who need extra pick me up during this time, Schaeferle added.
Inside the gift bags is a notepad that says ‘let what you do today be enough’, a sticker that says ‘just breathe’, a pen that says ‘in this big world you do a difference,” a $5 Starbucks gift card and a thank you note.
The church has been challenged by donors to think of a way to share God’s love with this donation, Pastor Josh Nelson said. He hopes District 112 feels people love and care for them and want to share their appreciation for how they touch children’s lives, he added.
Nelson’s wife is a teacher in another school district, so he has witnessed her experience over the past two years and the sacrifices she has made. Often teachers are blamed for things beyond their control, such as hiding or remote learning, he said. He wants to be part of a group of people who say thank you and cling to school staff, he added.
Members of the church congregation met for two days to assemble all the gift bags. There was such joy putting the bags together and putting them together, Nelson said, adding that it was fun to be part of a big effort.
“Just the sheer joy of being able to serve and give and how much it means to each person to be able to be part of such an important effort,” Nelson said.
In Nelson’s office, the calligraphy of the word “encourage” hangs. He kept the object for a long time and brought it with him to the various churches he served. In the scriptures, encouragement is listed as one of the gifts of the spirit that should be shared with others.
“I really like to see that play out with people when we’re able to share encouragement with others,” Nelson said. “It also gives us courage.”
The gift bags were distributed to district staff in early February.
“These thoughtful tokens of appreciation lifted the spirits of staff members and brought smiles to our faces this week,” Celine Haga, district communications and community relations director, said in an email. “Being recognized by the community for the hard work and impact of our staff over the past two years really makes a difference.”