Have you ever wondered how Jesus, an unknown preacher with an unpopular message was so effective reaching crowds of people? It’s a one word answer. LOVE. People did not follow Jesus because of his diet. They were not attracted to him because of his dress. His compassion showed that you can at the same time call people to holiness while loving them intensely through the process. In order to do that, you must love. We love through our service.
When serving your community, avoid these three mistakes:
1. Figure out a plan on your own.
The best people qualified to tell you what the needs of the community are…wait for it…the community. Not your board. Not the conference community service director.
Last church I pastored, we went out in the community and asked them what their interests, needs and hurts were. It was a simple survey, but very telling (I can share if you’d like). It was interesting that only 30% of the people that lived in a 5 block radius of the church knew who we were. That is pretty consistent with the percentages of people in the United States that are aware of us. When I hear people talking about persecution, I want to ask them: How are they going to persecute someone they don’t even know exists?
After the survey, we then developed programs to meet the needs. That transformed the church in a fortress mentality FUBU church to a community oriented congregation. First of all, we were surprised such a very small percentage of people we asked knew who we were. That made an impact in us, since it was a five hundred member church in the middle of the Hispanic community. Second it helped us target more effectively our community.
2. Wheel reinvention:
There are already organizations that provide many services in your community. Instead of re-inventing the wheel as we often do, why not join worthwhile organizations in what they are doing? Here is a good starting point: http://www.voa.org/ Invite organizations that have purposes akin to yours. We need to be cautious about who we bring in, and what their agenda is, but we have to realize that we did not invent the wheel. There are community and religious organizations that have been doing at least some of what you are doing, usually for a longer period of time. In an event at the Hillsboro church, we invited several organizations to participate, including a local Christian college counseling department as well as representatives from the local hospital and police department. Just their exposure to our church ministries, opened many doors. We got five hundred teddy bears, a grant for food, free cholesterol screening, more than forty computers for a lab, all free of charge.
3. Avoid politicians.
Many times we have been reluctant to engage politicians, sometimes with good reason. One of the first things I do when new in a district is finding out and meeting with the mayor, council members, and representative. It’s also not difficult to contact the governor and senator. Why should we connect with the powerful in our community?
*They can point you to need areas.
*They can point you to other organizations.
*They can provide resources, volunteers and funds. This can get tricky, so tread softly.
I usually introduce myself and tell them that we have an interest in improving our community through a holistic approach that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I ask them 3 questions:
*What are the greatest needs of this city/town?
*What organizations or people would you suggest I talk to?
*Are there any initiatives that you’re implementing that we should take a look at?
I have always found them ready to talk and willing to help. Even secular mayors like the one in Portland was touched by the actions of Christians in the community.
We can’t be perfect, but we can strive for excellence. Serve, like Jesus. Make it a way of life.[/box_holder]