Ministry in and to the community is the most critically important, but often overlooked activity of the local church. The church gets busy doing the “inward focused” activities that serve and even appear to strengthen the church. But somewhere along the way, they fail to turn outward and engage the local community by meeting it’s needs and sharing the gospel. This inward focused mentality is killing many churches.
Tom Rainer in his book The Autopsy of a Deceased Church shares that one of the common denominators among dying churches is their failure to engage the community around them. We see it in every city, both urban and rural. What used to be a thriving and community-involved church is now stagnant, unengaged and quietly dying.
Lifeway research shares that 78% of non-church attenders believe that the local church is more concerned with organized religion than with making a difference in their own community. Perhaps that’s why non-attenders aren’t coming anymore. They question what the church does and its significance in the life of the community.
Churches must start asking the question, “How can we effectively engage our community in such a way that we meet real needs and open doors for sharing Christ?”
Before a church dives into unchartered waters and begins ministry to the community, there are important steps to take that will ensure it is relevant, needed and well executed. Just because “ABC” church in another town is doing a ministry well is not reason enough for your church to invest and engage in the same ministry, unless it’s needed by your community, and God is leading your church to implement it.
Here are some suggested steps for engaging your community through meaningful and relevant, gospel-centered ministry.
- Pray Seeking God’s Leadership – for direction, open doors, resources, powerful witness, laborers for the harvest, and receptive hearers. Prayer teams, elderly widows/physically handicapped, prayer walking areas of need. Total dependence on God.
- Share Vision and Involve Others – with church staff, lay persons, community leaders and people of influence; Through book study, sermon series, testimonies, newsletter/web page or blog.
- Assess Community Needs – assessments like Community Assessment Tool.
- Determine Giftedness and Available Resources – church resources, passion of members, spiritual gift inventories, surveys; Eph 4 – God has equipped each believer for “works of service”. There are several different church assessments available.
- Find your “sweet spot” by matching discovered community needs with the church’s gifting and resources to determine which ministry to engage in.
- Plan the Ministry –
- Enlist Passionate Person and Leadership Team
- Decide on Ministry
- Determine Mission Statement –
- Prepare Goals and Objectives –
- Prepare and Implement Action Plans –
- Gather Resources and Enlist Volunteers –
- Provide Ministry Training – including evangelism (testimony, tracts, scripture, CWT, Share Jesus Without Fear, FAITH, 3 Circles, Tell Your Story or Most Important Thing, etc.).
- Set the Ministry in Motion –
- Evaluation –
The possibilities for community engagement through meaningful ministry are endless and only limited by you!
Here are some Community Ministry Ideas:
- Parents & Married Couples – parenting courses, marriage enrichment classes, money management
- Women – wives of deployed soldiers, Mothers of Preschoolers, pregnancy care, shelter for abused women/children, prostitution/human trafficking, mentoring mothers
- Men – literacy, job skill training, computer use, jail/prison, mentoring for ex-offenders, homeless shelters
- Students – tutoring/homework assistance, backpack ministry, latchkey kids, sports ministry, foster parenting/adoption, college/university campus
- Health Care – clinics, preventive health workshops/screenings, taxi service to doctors, prescription assistance, nursing homes
- Special Ministry- developmentally disabled, physically handicapped, internationals, refugee resettlement, raceways, truck stops, resorts & campgrounds
- Community – food/clothing, benevolence, money management classes, cooking classes on limited budget, rehab house trailers, multi-housing, laundromat, adopt a public school, car repair for low income families
- Support Groups – gambling, sexual addiction, substance abuse, grief recovery, divorce