Stories Just Beyond Our Walls
Are you striving to be the best church in your community or for your community?
This question was posed by Rick Rusaw at a workshop I attended about a year ago, and it became a driving question as I sought to lead a North Carolina congregation.
Why were we doing the things we were doing, and what was our goal? Were we trying to emulate the things we saw other “successful” churches doing, or were we simply seeking to entice more people to walk through our doors?
This question by Rusaw challenged me to completely rethink the reasons behind our programs and ministries. It also made me realize that neither the congregation, nor I as their leader, knew the needs and stories of the people living just beyond our walls.
Over the past 20 years, the neighborhood surrounding my congregation had grown quickly and become demographically diverse. There were a few annual events that would superficially engage the community, like Trunk-or-Treat, Easter egg hunts and BBQ chicken dinners, but none of these events allowed us to really get to know our neighbors or hear their stories.
If asked about the church, many community members would have little to no knowledge of its location or ministries. After spending a few months in prayerful discernment, we determined God was calling our congregation to work within the neighborhood elementary school.
Our neighborhood schools were the lowest performing in the district. The classrooms were overcrowded and teachers were overworked and overextended. The school had little outside support.
We talked with administrators about the schools' pressing needs, and how we could help. Soon, our volunteers delivered needed school supplies to kindergarten classrooms and supplemented the PTA’s efforts to support the staff.
Relationships built with teachers, students and parents within three months. More importantly, significant trust developed; the administration realized our only goal was to bring hope and share Christ’s love with our neighbors.
Working in the local schools may not be the direction God is calling your congregation…but God is calling you into your community.
- Do you know your neighbors?
- Do they know you?
- If your church were to close its doors tomorrow, would it be missed or would the community even notice?
These are tough questions for any congregation. But they are good motivators for any church seeking to be workers in the Kingdom.