by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.
To associating community needs a student once responded, “We have tried: White-water rafting trips…boating trips…fishing trips…quilting nights…spa nights (that sounds spiritual, I know)…family fun nights…the circus…friendship dinners…block parties…camp outs…work projects…missions trips…golf outings…and just a variety of stuff. I know that you are looking for tools, but I think that the best tool is having your church body get out there to rub shoulders with their neighborhoods. Then to report back as to what works and what doesn’t work.”
This is a good attempt, but in my response I tried to help the student focus more precisely before he just “tried” or “experimented” with different events.
I noted to him that most of the events the student cited were attractional events. They really weren’t meeting the needs of the community (unless there is a pent up need for boating, fishing, golf-outings and the like). Now, these are all good events, but I think we can all recognize that they are mostly geared toward providing fellowship for churchgoers.
Therefore I suggested that he look into community discussions, forums, meeting people at the Laundromat on Saturday morning and/or Sat. morning walks through the community. I suggested he and the leaders ask community residents “what could a church like ours do to help people in this community?” We shouldn’t ask them what we could do for them, for this is too personal. Rather it is more polite to ask about what the church could do for the community. They usually will tell you what you can do for them.
By this first-hand interaction (which is called primary research) we can ascertain the needs of the community and build a ministry to address it. Thus, you won’t be doing what this student called “a variety of stuff… to report back as to what works and what doesn’t work.” Instead, we can be better utilizing our precious resources of talent and treasure by meeting the needs the community tells us that they have.
Rubbing shoulders works well, but even more so if they see you actively demonstrating the sacrifice, service and love of Christ.