Take a moment to read insights from Chris Chandler, Associate Pastor at The Summit Church!
The Summit is a community-based church in Lee’s Summit, MO. Their members go above and beyond to furnish homes, from collecting items to volunteering every week. Last week, we got to have a conversation with Chris Chandler, a powerful Flourish advocate and community leader. He shares about the synergy between church ministries and nonprofits, and the benefits we receive when we give back to others. Thank you, Summit Church, for all you do to empower families across the Kansas City metro!
Flourish is entirely community driven, from donated furniture, volunteers, and operating budget. Your donation to Flourish builds upon the support of communities like The Summit Church who work tirelessly to support our neighbors. Together, we can provide essential furnishings for every family overcoming housing insecurity in our community.
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Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Chris Chandler. I’m the Associate Pastor at the Summit Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.
When did you first become aware of Flourish?
It’s probably been close to two years. Ryan, our Lead Pastor, came into connection with Rich, the Executive Director at the time. I immediately loved the vision. We did the walkthrough, and it was just really, really compelling. We started to seriously ask, “What would it look like for our church to partner with Flourish?” We started talking about ways we could work together.
How long have you been with Summit church?
I’ve been there five and a half years. First job straight out of school.
What did you study?
I went to a seminary in Kentucky and got a Master of Divinity (it’s got a terrible name.) After that, I jumped in here. I’ve done a few different jobs at the church. Now, I help run our ministry teams, organizing pbrojects like the drive for kitchen kits we just did with our kids’ ministry. I’m kind of a bridge between different ministries. We want this partnership with Flourish, so I say “Hey, kids! What could we do?” My job is about making it happen.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
It’s definitely helping across all the different ministries and seeing a shared vision. The kids’ ministry wants to have something that is both mission- and community- oriented. Because I already have my hands in both groups, I know that we’re doing some work with Flourish, so I can make that bridge across ministries. It makes it so that we’re actually doing things. I like getting to work with ministry leaders to make practical things happen. We can have fun at an event but also meet real needs for Flourish.
One of our families’ biggest values is having shared moments together. With Flourish, we can give families an opportunity to do something meaningful together. Last night, we made 144 kitchen kits with kids and their parents doing it together. We’re creating value for a local non-profit while we’re also creating moments for local families and fulfilling our vision as a community church. It’s very practical for you guys, it’s great for our families, and it’s helping our church do what we’re called to do.
How did you get into pastoral work?
I’m a pastor’s kid. I grew up in the church world. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I’ve always loved communicating. It was something I decided I would try during my undergraduate. Then I decided to go to seminary, which maybe you shouldn’t do if you’re unsure. But I thought, “Okay, I’ll either work at a local church or a non-profit or maybe like hospital chaplaincy.”
When I found The Summit, I was really compelled by their vision of a church that’s for the good of the community. Instead of saying, “Hey, we want to help families who are moving into a new home. We’re going to start our own ministry.” Which is sometimes okay to do, right? But instead, their idea is to say, “Hey, there’s actually a great local non-profit 10 minutes from us. What would it look like to share some resources to work with what they’re already doing?” It makes a bigger impact. Certainly there are times where it’s worth us creating our own ministry. But first, we look for people who are already meeting needs and doing it with excellence, like Flourish. My goal is to say, “What if we worked with this awesome organization and made it all the better by coming together?”
How do you see your role as a facilitator?
When it comes to helping connect people to an organization like Flourish, I want to remove the friction. When most people hear about an organization like Flourish for the first time, they’re not going to come on site. But we can build momentum and let them know about Flourish first. We can say, “Hey, we’re collecting some whatever it is and taking it to Flourish.” They start to hear the name over and over. “Hey, we’re doing a kitchen kit drive for families.” “Hey, a team from our church is going over there to volunteer.” “Hey, we’re picking stuff up in the FOR truck for Flourish.” People start to catch the vision. Then, when it comes to do a fundraiser like The Big Give, then people are like, “Oh yeah, of course, Flourish.”
My role as a facilitator looks like those simple nudges of, “You can do this.” I’m trying to remove the friction by giving people easy opportunities. I want to show people how simple it can be to make a big difference. You can volunteer for 15-20 hours, but there are other ways to give if you can’t. You can still let your neighbor who’s moving know about Flourish.
It’s also storytelling. When you guys come to our event and talk about the families, or we see a newsletter about a specific family, we connect with it. I love telling people, “Hey, if you donate, most likely in the next two weeks, it’ll already be in someone’s home.” We start small and grow into something greater.
How does Flourish align with your vision of community?
People are starving for community. One of the things we try to do as a church is to facilitate that community. People want to plug into something bigger than themselves. It’s about being able to take skills you already have and finding a way to use them. Flourish has so many outlets, from woodworking to moving furniture to making kitchen kits. To me, it’s a win-win. You’re making a huge difference and giving people community.
We have a group called the Difference Makers. One of the reasons they’re a group is because yeah, they want to make a difference. We can bring those two things together, both I’m going to make a difference and I’m going to get a community out of that.
That is long term. Those are people who are sticking around, who are committed to making a difference. Now they have a community of people who do it together. They’re more committed now to Flourish than ever before.
Flourish is a really important space of community, from volunteers to folks coming here to shop for furniture. It feels safe, right? Flourish does things in such a way that is honoring to people. If nothing else, I can imagine a sigh of relief. I’m being taken care of here. That’s invaluable.
Flourish is a faith-based non-profit. Rather than a particular denomination, faith comes into our work through our belief that everyone in the community is worthy of a furnished home. Could you speak about how faith comes into this work for you?
So we’re a Christian Church. We believe every one of us has the image of God. For us that means human dignity, value, and worth. We don’t have to share faith with somebody to see their image of God and their immense worth, dignity, and value. One of the ways I can show that is by meeting practical needs. We can talk all we want about love, faithfulness and generosity. But if it doesn’t move us to meeting practical needs for people, what are we doing?
As we’re looking at our next five years, we want to be a place that meets people’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We’re pretty good on the spiritual side. When it comes to meeting people’s physical needs, that’s where we partner with awesome non-profits. Something we’re working towards is meeting emotional needs. It’s a holistic approach. If I try to meet your spiritual needs, but I don’t care about where you sleep, what am I doing? I don’t have to share somebody’s faith to say, I really care that you have a safe and dignified place to sleep at night.
If there was anything you could change about the world, what would it be?
I don’t know if this is the best answer, but a good thing would be if everyone had meaningful communities to support them. I would want everyone to have that network of support to where they’re having their spiritual, their physical, and their emotional needs met. What would our world look like if that were the case? That’s one of the reasons I do what I do for a living, right? I want to meet one of those three core needs, which is spirituality. If everybody could have that support system, that’d be a great world.
One of the things that I really love about the Christian tradition is Communion. One of the things they made a very big deal of was this is the Lord’s table. This is not a Republican table, not a Democratic table, not a rich table, not a poor table. At our church, you don’t have to be a member to participate. In a very divisive world, Communion is this place where it’s equal. It’s a moment where we have people in our community who believe radically different things about the world in the same spot.
At the last election, we printed these yards signs that kind of look like political yard signs. They said For Civility 2020. We had them all over the city. It was fascinating the stories we would hear from people saying, “Thank you for putting that up.” It was a reminder, “Hey, let’s not forget the main thing about us is not our voter ID.”
What’s coming up for The Summit?
The biggest community event we do each year is the Thanksgiving grocery delivery. We used to do hot meals, but we’ve shifted instead to where anyone in the Kansas City, MO metro area can sign up to receive groceries instead. This year, we have over a hundred volunteer driving teams and close to 780 families receiving meals. We partner with a local Hy-Vee where they give us food at a discount. Tomorrow night, we’ll organize all of those boxes and put the food in tomorrow. Then, for about three hours on Saturday, cars will line up and they’ll get five or six houses to deliver to. It’s a blast and you don’t have to be affiliated with our church.
We adopt families from different agencies as well. We partner with Lee’s Summit Elementary, Crinton, and Coldwater that members from our church will buy Christmas presents for. Then, lastly, we work with Hickman Mills Transitional Center to provide coats for their community room.
Is there an opportunity for Flourish volunteers and supporters to get plugged in?
Absolutely. We have lots of opportunities, especially in 2024. For our coat drive, you can drop off any middle-schooler-sized, lightly worn coats at the church before the end of November, and we’ll pass it on. This next one is a little bit of a teaser. We would love for the FOR truck to be able to go out into the community and provide fresh produce. That’s a dream of ours. How cool would it be for our truck to pull up in a community that doesn’t have access to fresh produce? Whatever you need, come through and grab it on your way. A mobile food bank of sorts. If anybody has connections, that would be awesome.
We want to be more and more out in our community. We used to be a downtown church. We were there for 145 years until we outgrew our space. People used to be able to walk to us easily, but our new location is not easily accessible by walking. We’ve decided that instead, we’re going to go out and meet the community where they are.