For several years, I have watched churches struggle to make deep, authentic connections with their communities. This happens for a variety of reasons, but rarely happens intentionally. I never think churches isolate themselves on purpose, but it might happen over time if we aren’t careful and without us knowing it.
When was the last time you hosted a dinner party in your home? We might have a response stating how busy our family is and that we can barely keep up with Monday-Friday. We can’t possibly host a dinner party in our home. I feel your pain, especially since the church we’re serving is over an hour from our home. Personally, I look forward to long Sunday lunches in our dining room with people we want to know better. It’s been too long!
When was the last time a person knocked on your door that you weren’t expecting? Sales people don’t count! We probably have to think about that one for a minute or two. It doesn’t happen that often.
It work to create that type of culture in our home and never happens naturally. Too many other things get in the way. The same is true for our churches. For most parts of our country, the days of people entering a church building without being invited are over.
Here are five ways your church can connect with the community. Please remember you cannot “bait and switch” people and they cannot feel like there are “strings attached”.
- Establish a partnership with the local school system. You have to abide by the law, but the sky is the limit on this one. Tutor in an elementary school. Allow choir concerts to be in your auditorium with no cost. Provide lunch for the teachers. Have a school supply drive over the summer months.
- Host a block/street party. Don’t be cheap. Rent inflatables for the kids. Have door prizes. Have quality free food. Have a video game tent. Pass out flyers around the neighborhood. Use Facebook Ads. Put up banners where the party will be held. DO NOT PUT AN AD IN THE NEWSPAPER. The people you want to reach do not read a physical newspaper.
- Build a playground on your property. This one takes vision casting and fundraising. I would raise the bar on this and suggest that our churches should have the best playground in the neighborhood. It’s okay to have playground rules, but it’s not okay to have a locked fence around it. You want the families in your neighborhood to include your church building in the natural path of their lives.
- Provide a childcare service. There a few directions your church could go here. The first option is having a two hour block of time twice a month during the day for free childcare. Everybody know moms (or dads) of preschool children need a break and your church could provide a real need. The second option is having the same type of childcare, but also provide lunch for moms (or dads) because they need to be cared for also.
- Provide date night childcare. Your church believes the marriages of the congregation matters. The marriages outside the congregation matter as well. Your church could offer childcare monthly or quarterly so parents who can’t find an end to the chaos can at least have a break in the calendar.
There are more ways your church can reach the community. When you’re brainstorming what your church can do, I encourage you to answer this question. What are we willing to do so we can reach the people that other churches are not reaching? The answers will give you a foundation for reaching your community better.
Remember, the urgency of reaching your community is so your community can personally know Jesus Christ. Providing for social justice and felt needs always should point a person to the cross of Jesus Christ.
Written by Chris Peoples. Chris has served churches in Michigan and Indiana since 2000 as youth pastor, executive pastor and interim pastor. He has also been a speaker for camps and retreats since 2006.
Chris has a Bachelor degree in Ministry Leadership from Cornerstone University and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Leadership from Cincinnati Christian University. Look for more articles from Chris at http://chrispeoples.org.