A few years ago, at the very first Rethink Leadership, Jeff Henderson came on stage and talked about what his church was doing in the community. He called it being “for” his community. From this moment on, I began to hear what it was like for a church to really be “for” their community.
As compelling and amazing as Jeff’s vision for his community was, the reality is that there have been churches all over the world that have been “for” their community for a long, long time. It is actually what all our churches should be doing. We should be community-minded and focused. But why? Why should we be community-focused? Because, as Jeff so eloquently said, we, as the Church, want to be known more for what we are “for” than what we are against. Our communities want to see that we care more about them then just trying to convert them.
And the great thing is that his church is having a tremendous impact in his community by simply being community-focused and for them. But what does being community-focused mean for you and your church? What can you do, and how can your church be community-focused? Here are a few suggestions:
Support your local schools.
Adopt a teacher(s), help support field days in elementary school or even offer to volunteer as admin support for the school. Simply volunteer your time and support the local schools in your community in whatever way they need help.
Sponsor a house or travel sports team.
Sports leagues and teams are always looking for extra donations and sponsorships. This is a great opportunity for your church to contribute to a local league or team and show them you are not looking for anything in return. You could contribute financially, or, what would be fun as well would be for you to not just sponsor them financially but bring some food to a league day or team meal, come and cheer them on during a game or even write encouraging notes to them. Just as you may adopt a teacher or classroom, you could adopt a team.
Do community service in the neighborhood.
Whether your community has a “service day” or not, you could make it your goal as a church to go into the different communities to offer service to people . . . for FREE! Rake leaves, shovel snow, lay down mulch. Whatever your community needs, go and do it for them as an act of Christ.
Help at community events.
There is a big difference between showing up at a community event, handing out tracts and sharing all that there is to know about your church AND helping at community events. When you show up as a “vendor” you are keeping the focus all on you and what your church is doing. When you show up as a helper, you ask the event organizers what they need and how you can help them. If you have a snow cone or popcorn machine, maybe you just come with those things and give away FREE snow cones and popcorn.
Do events for the community.
Just like helping out events currently happening in a community, throw a party for the community and make it FREE! Whether it be fall festivals, Christmas gatherings or spring parties, throw an event for your community and share joy and happiness. Maybe you can wear T-shirts and have information about your church there but make it about your community and not about your church.
Being community-focused is simple. It means being more focused on how you can support and care for your community than about being more focused on how they can come to your church. It means that you think strategically about how you can serve them and help meet their needs before you look for ways for them to come to your church.
These are just a few examples of what you can do as a community-focused church. Even though there isn’t anything that focuses on your church in here, the cool thing is that when you focus on loving and serving your community, the community begins to realize that there isn’t an ulterior motive behind your serving. And then, they start taking notice of your church—which could, down the road, lead them to checking out your church and hearing about Christ for the first time. Everyone wins when you serve your community and are community-focused, especially those in the community.