I’ve been writing a lot lately on the need for our churches to become more active and engaged in our communities. This is important for a variety of reasons.
The early church was known for kindness and love. Millennials and Gen Z want to be part of churches that care about the community and actively serve.
And, of course, there are thousands of people who live in our communities who don’t attend our churches and don’t know Jesus.
So, with summer fast approaching, let’s talk about 5 ways to engage your community this summer.
Remember the early 2000's when churches everywhere were naming themselves and their various ministries with Greek words? Koinonia, Kainos, Kurios, Charis...you know what I’m talking about.
Anyway, in the early days of my career as a youth pastor, my favorite event was something we called splagxnon which basically means, “guts.”
Yes, I was also naming everything with random Greek words.
Splagxnon is a version of the word that the Gospel writers used to describe the compassion Jesus felt toward those in need. In the ancient near east, compassion was described as coming from your guts.
I just love that image. It’s so visceral.
For us, Splagxnon was an event where our entire student ministry joined together in serving our community in a variety of simple ways: yard work for the elderly and shut-ins, roadside cleanup, etc.
Basically, we would look around at our community for something that bothered us and spend a day doing something about it.
If you’re looking for a way to engage your community this summer, a community service day like this could be a great idea.
Inevitably, people will ask you:
“Why are you doing this?”
And, this is a great opportunity to share about your church.
2. Throw Parties
One of my main objectives in our student ministry is to have fun together. Why? Because fun and laughter break down barriers.
When I see a new small group laughing together with their small group leader, I know something good is in the works.
There are a lot of people in our communities who don’t attend a church.
There are barriers that are keeping them away. Maybe it has to do with beliefs. It could be because of a negative experience they had with church. There are a number of possibilities.
The point is, they aren’t coming because of some kind of barrier.
Fun breaks down barriers.
If we are able to create environments in which we can have fun with the people of our community, they might come to see that we are more normal than they were thinking. They might come to see that we can relate on a human level. They might even enjoy being around us.
If you’re looking for a way to engage your community this summer, throw a few parties. Create environments where the people of your community could have fun with people from your church in non-religious ways.
Here are a couple of ideas:
The point is: If you want to engage your community this summer, create environments for your community to have fun.
3. Show Up Where People Show Up
Another great way to engage your community is to show up where everyone else is showing up.
The obvious example of this is the 4th of July.
My guess is that your town or city throws a big celebration complete with fireworks. My suggestion would be to show up and serve.
To be clear, I don’t mean show up and hand out Gospel tracts or show up and advertise your upcoming sermon series. I’m talking about showing up in ways that actually help and serve people or that are fun.
For example, if your church owns property that is a great spot to watch the fireworks show, consider hosting that event really well.
What if you cooked hotdogs for everyone or handed out free blankets, mosquito spray, or glow sticks for the kids?
Another idea is to show up at the parade with water bottles or extra candy for those kids whose parents didn’t want them running out in front of astronomically loud firetrucks.
Why do they have to be so loud!?!
If you want to engage your community this summer, look for ways to show up where everyone else is showing up.
It might be the 4th of July Celebration, a county fair, or a festival your town hosts every summer. These are great opportunities to serve your community and show people that you care.
4. Neighborhood VBS
Here’s the thing: parents love VBS.
About halfway through the summer, I’m putting together a schedule for my kids to attend a VBS at every available church, every week.
Maybe it has something to do with having five kids but halfway through the summer, I’d even consider a Mormon VBS.
Ok. I’m exaggerating a bit but I think you know what I mean.
Putting on a VBS or backyard Bible Clubs are a great way to serve local families and introduce their kids to Jesus.
I think we all know that non-Christian parents are far more likely to send their son or daughter to a VBS than to actually bring them to church on a Sunday morning. We also know that parents are often roped into church when their kid falls in love with the childrens ministry.
Most of our churches put on some sort of VBS.
I also know that these things are a huge investment in terms of staff and volunteer hours.
I’m not exactly sure how effective VBS is in spiritual formation, but I do believe that it might be one of the best evangelistic tools available to us.
If you’re looking for ways to engage your community this summer, an evangelistically focused VBS might be a great idea.
5. What Do You Need?
Lastly, one of the smartest things we can do as churches is to connect with local ministries, organizations, and township or city services and ask:
“What do you need?”
The bottom line is that these people know what our communities need much more clearly than we do.
Most likely, they're also better at serving people with needs than we are.
We might have ideas on how to serve our communities that truly aren’t that helpful. Or, maybe they are good ideas that with a slight refinement could become a great idea.
What I’m learning is that when churches partner with local ministries, governments and businesses to serve the community, amazing things can happen.
Maybe the best investment in your community that you can make this summer is to learn, to become more educated about what the actual needs are and the best ways to meet those needs.
A summer spent this way could lead to a year or years of incredible impact in your community.
I wonder what plans you have to engage your community this summer.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.