If your church is like mine, you’re probably really good at caring for and investing in the people connected to your ministry.
If people walk through your doors and engage with programs, they are likely to
get plugged into the church community and grow.
They likely believe that you care for and about them.
But, what about the people who don’t walk through your doors?
If our churches are unengaged with the surrounding communities, this is a huge missed opportunity.
Most people around us don’t know about our church and therefore, don’t feel the love of Jesus through our church.
We need to become churches who serve in the community.
The people in our community need Jesus, and they’re often not open to Jesus until they feel the love and care of the people of Jesus.
So, how do we get there? I have a few ideas.
One of the mistakes we make as churches is assuming.
We assume that we have the answers to the challenges in our community and so we start doing stuff and sharing our expertise.
The truth is, we probably don’t know what the challenges are. When we offer our services and resources without asking questions, we come across as arrogant and condescending.
Also, our help might not be that helpful. Meanwhile, members of the community are rolling their eyes.
What if we came with questions instead of answers?
What if we went to community leaders and asked,
“What do you need?”
The way to gain trust and a solid reputation in the community is through thoughtful listening and wise and generous response to needs and opportunities.
Let’s listen first and talk second.
Celebrate the Community
A great way to shift the focus of your congregation away from an inward focus toward and outward focus is to change your messaging on social media.
Most church social media accounts can be summarized by, “Look at what we are doing!”
Of course, these kinds of posts aren’t bad, but my point is that most of what we post is about us.
We’re highlighting what is happening in our church.
What if we shifted our focus toward what is happening in the community?
There’s an opportunity to highlight area ministries, community events, godly leaders who don’t attend your church, and important community moments.
Here’s the question:
"If a random person from your community stumbled upon your church’s Instagram, would they see a church that is all about itself, or would they see a church that is all about their community?"
Empower Local Ministries
There are a bunch of local ministries in my city that are doing incredible work around homelessness, addiction, mental health, crisis pregnancies, and other challenges the people of our community are facing.
I’m guessing you can think of a bunch of great ministries in your region too.
We’d be crazy to think that our churches can provide the quality of ministry and services these local ministries do.
Instead of trying to duplicate what these ministries are already doing, often, it is better to empower these ministries financially and through volunteer efforts.
What would happen if you made a focused investment in a local ministry?
One of the ways we do this is through something we call “Giving Tables.”
We ask a local ministry for a list of items that would help them serve people well.
Then we print tags for each item, cover a table in our atrium with those tags, and invite the people of our congregation to go out and buy one or two of the things needed and bring it back the next week.
Over the years, our people have purchased thousands of items that empower local ministries to serve our community well.
Key Leaders Build Relationships
Connecting with and serving the community starts at the top of your organization.
Senior leaders set the direction and pace of your church.
So, if you’re the senior leader or part of the senior leadership team, your church will follow what you do. Set the pace by building relationships in the broader community.
Build relationships in your community, learn from them, tell stories about them
in conversations and sermons.
If you do this, I believe the rest of your church will begin to follow your example.
When we become known as a church that loves our community, people begin to open up to the Gospel message we are communicating.
If you have stories about how your church engages in local community, we’d love to hear from you.
Share in the comments below. We love hearing from you!