Your church is awesome! Attendance is strong. Giving is up. The Sunday school curriculum is the best in years. And even the new coffee bar is serving up drinks that rival that trendy coffee shop 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--do they know all the wonderful things that are going on? Maybe not so much the great coffee, but the stuff of real life. The mentoring, the healing, the support, the prayer ... all the essential things we need in our fast-paced life.
One of the most effective models for a church is one that is thoroughly immersed in its community. The church's ministries and concerns may be spread around the world, but its commitment to its neighborhood is what sets it apart. It's a place where those who are hurting can find healing; a place where support and care are lovingly demonstrated; and a place where the message of hope and forgiveness is communicated and lived out.
The challenge, however, is getting those folks in your neighborhood in the church door so they can experience life-changing transformation.
How do you do this?
Here are five ways to help make your church the center of the community--inviting people who may never on their own terms see the inside of a sanctuary.
- Offer space to community groups. Regardless of where your church is located, there are community groups looking for spaces to gather. Make available your basement, a classroom, or the old fellowship hall to groups who need it.
- Become involved in neighborhood associations or planning groups. Many communities have National Night Out events or other events organized around a holiday or a specific cause. Join these groups and offer up your church space or parking lot.
- Offer space for after-school activities. Let your local school know that you have space for approved after-school activities, such as, club meetings, student groups, parent/teacher gatherings, etc. It's nice for the school to know they have options when their facility is full, plus this helps build a relationship with the school.
- Offer space to a local nonprofit or business as it grows. Many nonprofits or small businesses start out in their founder's basement or in some less-than-ideal space. Offer them an unused classroom or six months for little or no rent--as it grows and becomes more self-sufficient.
- Partner with a local college or trade school for off-campus meeting space. Students are always looking for places to gather that aren't in the same buildings they traverse each day. Make a special room or area of your facility available for student gatherings, study nooks or other uses.
Not all these ideas will work for every church. And it will take time and effort on your part to make it happen.
Regardless, the potential return on your investment could be immeasurable--possibly even eternal.
A lot of people from your community who would never step inside of a church are now stepping into your facility. The goal, of course, is not just for them to see the inside of your church; the goal is for them to interact with Christ followers and be exposed to the love of Christ.
Who knows ... a few years down the road, you may have to expand your facility to accommodate all the new people who encountered Christ in your midst!