Engaging Everyone to Love Our City

Crossover Church recruits service project volunteers from every demographic.

Tommy “Urban D.” Kyllonen is the pastor of Crossover Church in Tampa, Florida, and leader of the Flavor Fest Urban Leadership Network. Some of what distinguishes pastors and ministry leaders engaged with Tommy through the network is that each one is seeking to build a healthy multiethnic, economically diverse and multigenerational church. More than that, inspired by the people and passion of Crossover, these pastors are not only seeking to reflect their communities but are also trying to advance compassion, mercy and justice in credible and compelling ways through their churches, all for the sake of the gospel.

Having recently spoken at Flavor Fest’s biennial conference, what excites me most is that the network consists primarily of 25- to 40-year-old ethnically diverse leaders whose vibrant energy, passion, creativity and entrepreneurship is what is needed to reach an increasingly diverse society with a biblical message of faith, hope and love.

With this in mind, I asked Tommy to share his thoughts on engaging the community, and more specifically how Crossover has done so through a campaign he’s developed called Love Our City. Here’s what Tommy had to say.

The church I lead is multiethnic, multigenerational and multiclass. Thus, we had already developed a DNA to love our city and reach people through consistent teaching and various outreach initiatives. When we did the Love Our City campaign, however, with its accompanying week of service projects in our community, the response blew our minds.

For instance, in and through the 2018 campaign, we organized 107 projects, deployed over 1,000 volunteers and touched more than 10,000 people in our community, including college students, business professionals, single moms, immigrants, tourists, people in poverty, the homeless and retirees. Our specific projects targeted demographically diverse groups, and as part of our efforts, we invited each and every one we touched to join us at the end of that week for a Love Our City party.

So, guess when and where we held the party? At Crossover Church, as part of our regularly scheduled Sunday morning services. That Sunday morning we had the largest attendance in our church’s history with over 100 people starting a new relationship with Christ—and the following Sunday we baptized 88 people.

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Since then, we have continued to disciple dozens of new families who have become part of our church family. In fact, our ministry to college students, now with some 100 involved each week, was birthed out of the first Love Our City campaign. Beyond this spiritual impact, the campaign has elevated the church’s reputation in the city. We’ve received awards, corporate sponsorships, new partnerships and opportunities. Even the mayor and a local city council member attended and served with us this past year.

Like me, many pastors have been looking for new ways to engage their cities and to empower their churches to be better at loving our diverse neighbors. Toward that end, the Love Our City campaign has been one of the most revolutionary things that our church has done.

One more thing—young and emerging leaders tell me that millennials are largely absent from churches or disengaging at alarming rates. Subsequently, churches are trying to figure out how to attract them and keep them. We should recognize that one of the strongest passions that millennials bring to the table is to engage and bless their communities. Yet many think the church is not doing enough to impact the community outside its walls, so they leave out of frustration. By doing your own Love Our City campaign, I believe you can engage such passion and empower millennials to lead through your church and the community.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Love Our City campaign, Crossover Church has created a Love Our City leaders kit that explains the nuts and bolts of the program, including how to enlist corporate partners, recruit and deploy volunteers, choose and set up projects and more. To learn more, visit LoveOurCityBook.com.