Are you being the best church for your community instead of being the best church in your community?
That’s the question from Rick Rusaw, the Senior Minister at LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado, that’s still rattling around in my head after The Nines conference.
I think it’s an important distinction. So many times as churches, we look at community service or community events as a way to bring people to us. If we could only get them to our building, then we’d have a chance at getting them to stay. But in the end, that’s far more of a self serving than community serving kind of goal.
Rick looked at the history of his own church and how they transitioned in the area of serving the community. First it was about bringing them to us. Then it was us going out to them. Now it’s the question of how do we be with them? And while he doesn’t have the exact answer of how that is going to look, I think it’s a great attitude to have.
When I hear the statistics that the upcoming millennial generation will have very little interest in churches because they don’t see the relevance of their work, it disturbs me. But if we take that to heart and focus our churches on having the DNA of making a difference, regardless of physical location, I think we can bring change. It’s been said over and over again that we are becoming a culture of causes. People want to see organizations working to do good. Why can’t the church take that lead?
I believe everything a church does communicates something. Not doing anything for your community sends just as strong of a message as being involved in your community. The size of your church doesn’t matter. You can show your community you care by being involved in your community serving alongside it’s residents.
In his presentation at The Nines, Tim Stevens touched on this as well. As he’s re-thinking church, he believes we won’t reach our community unless we think of different ways to do it. Right now the thought is to bring people to a big box church, have great services and then there will be life transformation. He says that needs to change.
The Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak, TX has started to see firsthand how thinking differently about serving the community can make a difference. Pastor Scott Wilson tells the story about how the mayor of their city told him the church had a bad reputation in their community. People thought of them as a big church doing their own thing and not helping the community. They were too busy doing things for the community and they weren’t available to actually be a part of the community and work toward the community’s goals.
In response they did three things. First, they created a community relations position to go meet with community leaders, school boards, etc. Then they had a day at the church for all the service organizations in town to come to the church so church members could meet them and sign up to volunteer with them. Third, they aligned the church calendar with the community calendar. Instead of doing their own Fall festival, the church took ownership of the city’s Fall event.
This resulted in a complete image change for the church. The mayor recognized the church saying the community was a better place to be because of Oaks Fellowship. Are people saying that about your church?
What is your church doing to be in your community?