We talk a lot about “Accepting Responsibility for Our Communities” as because it is something we long to see all our churches engage in. This is part of what it means to be a healthy church.
But what might that look like?
Often, the first struggle is to define “our community”. Is it the whole city/town or 10 square blocks? Some churches have a real clear picture on this, and that’s great, but some are still struggling (especially in places where very few people actually live near the church property). I know I have a personal responsibility to love my actual neighbor, and I need to figure out what that looks like. Is my community where I live or where the church is located? The answer to that is yes
We believe that our churches, are where they are for a reason and so we have a responsibility as the people of God to the areas He has placed us in, be it in a church or in our personal lives.
While this becomes our starting point the question of ‘who is part of our community?’ still exits. If you are looking for a way to start answering that question, try this: Take your average Sunday morning attendance and multiply it by 10. So if you have 80 people on a Sunday morning use the number 800. Now get out a map and draw a circle around the church large enough that there would be 800 folks (roughly) inside that circle. That’s your community. Of course, this isn’t science. But it is a good place to start praying and thinking and planning.
The next step would be to start to discover the needs of your circle/ community. Look ways to serve and bless those people. Learn to build bridges so that you can build foster the types of relationships that will allow you to point them towards Jesus. Find leaders and influencers and ask questions. Do prayer walks and take good mental notes about what you see and what God brings to mind. Show up at community events and discover what matters or what’s missing. Those are some starting points, and if you need help thinking through how to do any of that, make sure your church connects with your Regional Coach for help and ideas.
Then plan to respond. And as you plan, make sure you aren’t simply finding new ways of inviting people to come and watch services in your building. Find ways of going out, or at least new ways of inviting people in. Here are some examples:
- Find ways to help. Serve alongside folks in programs and organizations that already exist in your community or at least find ways to invite them to serve alongside you.
- Find ways to meet needs in the community and invite others to join you. Lunches for schools or hampers at Christmas. Don’t just do them on your own, invite people to come alongside you and help.
- Have fun with people. Find events and join in, or host events that are just fun community connections. Some of you do drive-in movies. Or back to school fairs with bouncy castles. That kind of stuff that will make people see that you actually care about them.
- Invite people to learn. If there is a particular need in your community that a class or seminar will help address – host it. Parenting, marriages, finances, English. Open up your building and start meeting needs.
The point is to find ways for the church to be seen as more than that place that messes up parking or that place that is nothing but an organized clique or worse.
There is way more ideas than I have listed, but it starts with finding out who God has called you to and what they need, then doing something with what He has shown us.
Director of Leadership Development, the Free Methodist Church in Canada