Anyone can google the definition of influence. You may even take the time to read a few books or blog posts on the topic of influence. But actual influence does not come easily. Building lasting influence takes time and work.
One way you can begin building influence in your community is by leaning on the influence of others. Relationship amplifies influence. Because when influential people trust you, they’ll champion your message to other people.
In other words, if your church wants to have an influential voice in your community, a smart place to start is by building solid relationships with other community leaders. But who are the type of leaders you should be connecting with? And how do you get to know them?
Teachers and Principles
Partnering with schools to impact your community is a huge win for any church. That’s because every community has schools, and every school has teachers and administrators. Educators have a tremendous impact over students and their parents.
Connecting with school leaders is a key way to understanding the next generation. What challenges are local kids facing? What interests them? How can your church help them? The teachers and school administrators in your city will have a good idea of the answers.
Start by making a list of the schools in your area (perhaps starting based on proximity to your church). Take time to visit each one. See if any of the administrators or teachers attend your church. How many of the kids at your church attend those schools?
This might be an obvious suggestion, and hopefully one your church is already doing. But it’s still a good reminder to keep open relationships with local nonprofit leadership. If they’re living up to their mission, these charities are doing good in your community. It only makes sense to work together.
You might be wondering if nonprofits (especially secular ones) are competition. After all, you’re both vying for local donations and volunteers, right? But when you team up with other groups, you can reach a wider range of people than if you started fighting for limited resources.
Research nonprofits in your area. They may be big or small. They will probably cover a wide range of issues. But try to connect with at least one staff member or volunteer at each one. Learn more about the cause. Ask what their needs are. Suggest ways they could collaborate with you.
Building relationships with politicians and elected officials can be tricky, especially in our current political climate. However, these are still good relationships to have because of the inherent influence local government has in our communities.
Jot down a list of the officials who oversee your area—representatives, senators, city council members, etc. Don’t discriminate based on party or policy; you want to be as impartial as possible. Remember, you’re not trying to influence legislation—you’re trying to improve your community.
Small Business Owners
Local businesses are the backbone of local economy. They know so much about the community because they’re the ones serving people daily. Small business owners have to know their marketplace and its needs—otherwise, they’ll go out of business.
Drive around your town. Write down the local businesses you see. Use Google Maps to see what companies pop up close to your church building. This will no doubt be the biggest list you’ll create. You’ll likely see plenty of these:
- Restaurants and coffee shops
- Barbers and hairdressers
- Dry cleaners and laundromats
- Gas stations
- Car dealerships
Pick a few that are close to your church and that you feel are especially influential. Where do you always see people hanging out? Which businesses are especially trusted? Get to know the owners or managers of these establishments. Rather than asking something from them, ask how your church can help their company.
Clubs and Organizations
Most communities have local interest groups—athletic teams, rotary club, scouts, etc. Some of them may even use your church as a meeting space. That’s great, because these clubs are how people choose to spend their free time. They show what your community is interested in.
This is important because these groups may serve the same purpose as some of the ministries you have. Why start a men’s group if all the men in your community are already hanging out every week at the rotary club? Don’t try to compete with a great organization—do your best to work with them.
Check out local bulletin boards or search online to see what groups are nearby. Find out who organizes each of these clubs. Introduce yourself and find out more about what each group does. See if any of your church members participate in any of them.
Suggesting that you meet with the local media may make you cringe more than meeting with a politician. But not many people know more about the daily happenings around your community than the local TV reporter or newspaper editor. It’s their job to be connected.
Create a list (you should have quite a few lists by now) of the local newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations. Find a contact person at each one. It helps if you find a reporter who has written on religious or special interest stories in the past. Reach out and introduce yourself.
Don’t think that you have to wait for a news story to break at your church before reaching out to the press. When you get to know local journalists first, it makes it easier to pitch stories to them later. Building a relationship creates trust and makes working with the media much smoother.
Other Church Leaders
That’s right—your job of meeting the community influencers is not complete without reaching out to other churches. Because you’re probably not the only church in your community. And you’re certainly not the only one trying to build influence.
What other churches are in your area? Visit them. Learn from them. Even if you’re different denominations, or different sizes, you can still learn from one another. And no matter what differences you have, you have at least one thing in common—Jesus. Start there.
I’d bet you have a lot more in common with the other local church leaders than you’d realize. And if you combine your influences and community relationships together, you could do much more in terms of building the kingdom together.
What community leaders do you need relationships with?