You might have a wonderful church. Attendance is good. Giving is up. The new Sunday school curriculum is the best in years. Maybe the Sunday morning coffee is even better than the Starbucks down the street.
But to those who don’t attend your church—the ones who live two blocks away or who drive by on their way to work every day—do they know about all the wonderful stuff you are doing? Not so much the great coffee, but the stuff of real life. The mentoring, the support, the prayer … all the things we so desperately long for in today’s fast-paced world.
One of the most effective models of a local church is one that is completely immersed in its community. Its concerns and efforts spread around the world, but its commitment to its neighborhood is what sets it apart. It’s a place where those who are hurting, looking for help or just in need of a friendly face to talk to can find an inviting and caring home.
The challenge is always getting people in the door.
As our society becomes increasingly secularized, here are five ways to make your church the center of the community—inviting people in who may never on their own terms see the inside of a church.
1. Offer church space to community groups or others looking for meeting space. Even if you live in a small, rural community, there are local groups looking for places to meet or to hold a special event. Make available your basement, a classroom or an unused foyer area to groups who need it.
2. Become involved in neighborhood associations or planning groups. Many neighborhoods have associations organized around a variety of causes. Become part of them—if you haven’t already—and offer your church as a place to meet or to discuss various projects.
3. Consider offering space for after-school activities. It doesn’t have to be a huge effort, but let the local school know that you have space for groups looking to meet.
4. Offer a community nonprofit or local business space as it grows. Many nonprofits or small businesses start out in the owner’s basement or in some other dingy space that doesn’t encourage optimism. Offer a nonprofit the use of a classroom for six months or a year at little or no rent—depending on what you can offer and what it can afford.
5. Partner with a local college or technical school to offer space for students to study or meet off campus. Students are always looking for places to gather that aren’t in the same buildings they traverse every day. Make a special room available for student gatherings or study nooks.
Not all of these ideas will work for every church, and it will certainly take time and effort on your part to make it happen. But the potential return on your investment could be immeasurable.
Before long, your church could be humming with action—a lot of it from people who may have never stepped inside it before. The goal is not to have them see the inside of your church; the goal is for them to encounter Christ followers—who inhabit your church—so they can be exposed to the gospel and to the things that make your church unique.
Who knows … a few years down the road you may have to add on to your facility to accommodate the growth!