Community ministry, or reaching outside of church walls is essential to reaching others with the gospel.
Some people are never going to set foot in a conventional church building.
That’s just the way it is.
So we have to find ways to reach them with the gospel when they won’t come seeking it.
Some of these ideas I am about to share are not my own. Others are. But at this point, it’s all been tossing around in my head for so long, it’s hard to tell which are original from which I have read or heard.
And it really doesn’t matter.
I wanted to wait until I really had my thoughts on community ministry ready and in order before I wrote this.
Much like I have wanted to wait until I knew exactly what I was doing before beginning community ministry.
But if I keep waiting to write, or waiting to serve, I am wasting time.
And I just don’t think we have any time to waste.
Jesus is coming soon.
So, while there’s a lot to be said for planning, sometimes we can over-think a thing.
Sometimes, it comes down to just jumping in…head first. Taking ideas and running with them..letting the Holy Spirit lead, direct and refine.
So here goes!
Identify areas for focused community ministry.
What are the areas of greatest need? Who are the people least likely to show up at the church building for worship this Sunday?
Is it low-income housing apartments? Trailer parks? Certain neighborhoods?
It could be almost anywhere. Ask the Holy Spirit to draw you to the areas where you can make the greatest impact for the Kingdom.
Prayer-Walk each identified area for community ministry.
You may need to get permission from the housing authority or trailer park owners in some places, but most of the time, you can just get out there and prayer-walk!
How do you do this?
Okay, so this is another one of those things I have over-complicated.
Just pray. As you walk.
Ask the Lord to lead you to the right people. Ask Him to move through you to minister to lost and hurting people who desperately need Him!
Form a team to serve each identified area of community ministry.
Here’s another area where I am uncertain. Is it better to go ahead and form multiple teams to begin with, or to get just one team up and running and then duplicate the process?
I think there are some benefits and draw-backs either way.
But, as long as you’re doing something, God’s going to honor that effort, and He will show you what needs to be changed up as you go along.
Possibilities are endless. You could even collaborate with other churches in forming teams. After all, we are all body of Christ. As long as it’s a doctrinally sound church you are partnering with, this is definitely an option.
Plan activities in each area identified for focused community ministry.
Ministry teams can plan activities for community ministry that will provide opportunities to meet neighborhood residents and begin to build relationships.
Some ideas include:
- movie night in the street or parking lot
- community game night
- free food (hot-dogs, ice cream, cotton candy, etc.)
- music (if you have some talented folks who like to play and sing, try this. I mean, who doesn’t like music?)
These are only a few examples of things that can be done. Use your imagination to generate ideas that will draw people.
On-going needs assessment in each area of targeted community ministry.
This doesn’t have to be formal!
As you get to know the people, you will begin to see what their needs are. And if you are having trouble identifying needs? Just ask!
Once you know the needs, get busy coordinating efforts to meet the needs. Let people know you care and they will be much more likely to hear what you have to say about the Lord.
Serving others as the hands and feet of Jesus makes others want what you have and opens the door to share.
Begin small group Bible studies and worship services as a primary component of community ministry.
Not only are a lot of people never going to feel comfortable coming to church, but a lot of them don’t have transportation.
Our church has a van ministry, but lots of adults are hesitant to ask for a ride.
Also, if the service is right there in the community, it’s less likely that people will hold off coming because they don’t have what they believe to be the right kinds of clothes.
And some people might stop by out of simple curiosity!
Here are some specific ideas for things a body of believers can do as a part of community ministry.
Our church hosts something called “Parkfest” once a year. We hold worship services in the park and have free food, music, special speakers and baptisms in a watering trough.
Back in the spring, we also had a “free yard-sale”. Donations were made by church members, and everything was set up like a yard sale. The community was invited, and no one had to pay for the items they chose.
A community Vacation Bible School was the latest of these events.
- ask local stylists to donate their time and have free haircuts for kids (I know a school counselor who coordinated this in her school and it was very successful. Just think how great it would be if this were provided by and associated with your church?)
- gather some manicure supplies and do nails for the ladies in the community
- provide transportation services for doctor’s appointments or job interviews through volunteers
- offer a literacy/GED/basic work skills program
- provide an interview outfit/make-over for anyone who has completed the above programs and is ready to seek employment
- identify young families who don’t have a lot of support and recruit volunteer “grandparents”
- hold an “Undie Sunday” at your church and collect underwear for back-to-school (You could do the same with shoes and socks)
- offer parenting classes and support through volunteer mentors to moms who have lost custody of their children and want to regain custody
- offer a free beans-and-rice dinner in the church fellowship hall once a month
- minor home repairs, grass cutting or clean up for the elderly
- grocery delivery for senior citizens
- tutoring and mentoring for kids and teens
Again, these are only a few ideas. There are so many options for reaching the lost through community ministry.
As long as you keep Jesus Christ at the center of it all, and sharing His love your main objective, there are no limits to what you can do!