MANCHESTER, NH – On any given Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at 222 Cedar St. and 140 Wilson St. in Manchester, you will find 80-100 kids running around with volunteers, getting their faces painted, having a family-style dinner, or hearing a gospel message. This is the ministry of Roca Kidz Club that’s been showing the love of Christ to the children of Manchester for the past six years.
This summer, Roca partnered with multiple churches and Southern NH Services to do ‘Roca in the Park.’ From July 21 – 25, the same demonstration of love from Thursday nights was put into a five-day summer program in Sheridan-Emmet Park in Manchester.
“It’s really cool how it’s all come together,” Pastor Jacob Young from King’s Cross in Manchester said. “We’ve had about five organizations coming together to do this.” These groups include Roca Kids Club, Hope Tabernacle and Kings Cross of Manchester, King of Grace in Haverhill, MA, and a short-term missions team from Crossway Church in Lancaster, PA, and Southern NH Services, which provided lunches every day.
Despite some rain, about 30 to 60 kids joined in the park each day and 15 to 20 volunteers kept things running smoothly. This display of collaboration reflects years of intentionality and partnership among churches of the city.
Pastor Rivera of Hope Tabernacle and Pastor Young of King’s Cross both attend the Manchester Pastors Fellowship. Pastor Rivera hosts Roca at his church property on Cedar Street on Thursdays. Pastor Young sits on the Roca Board, and members from Kings Cross regularly volunteer at Roca on Thursdays. These connections opened up the door for partnership with King of Grace and the missions team from Crossways, two churches in the same “family” as King’s Cross.
Beyond this, Pastor John Rivera regularly attends Weed and Seed Strategy meetings. Weed and Seed is a community-based multi-agency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and neighborhood restoration in Manchester. Through these meetings, he knew that Southern NH Services had been looking for opportunities to bring lunches to the children of the city. Their director then agreed to provide all the lunches for the week.
Roca in the Park was a success on multiple fronts, however Pastor Young shared that this success is just a fragment of their longterm vision for the city.
“A longer goal would be to have something like this for each of the neighborhoods in the city,” Pastor Young said.
This could reflect a community-parish model, where the church is connected to and regularly responding to the needs of local neighborhoods.
“We (King’s Cross) are a different church than Hope Tab,” Young said, adding that the goal is to have the kids involved in any church that will bring them into a relationship with Jesus. Ultimately, “We’re not trying to set up our own kingdom,” he said.
Pastor Rivera agrees.
“It takes churches working together to reach a city,” Pastor Rivera said.
In a place like New England, where churches are small but community needs are great, these kinds of partnerships exponentially increase both the reach and capacity of individual churches and ministries in a community. Para-church ministries often have unique abilities to meet specialized community needs churches can support, with volunteers and additional resources.