Community me Holding Hands and PrayingVarious world religions include community support as one of their basic tenets of belief. It is easy, however, for churches to become insulated against the problems of their cities and the world at large. In an effort to protect its members, your church may often fall into the trap of choosing comfort over positive social change.

If the life of your church seems to be stale or you feel like you are just going through the motions, assess the focus of your efforts. These are common symptoms of too much inward attention and not enough community involvement. Fortunately, there are several ways you can reach out.

Discover What the Problems Are

Many people of faith look for churches with community outreach in mind. They want to belong to a group that is actively seeking to meet the needs of the city. You can't be a part of the solution until you are aware of the problem, though. The first step to helping the community heal is discovering where it is broken or hurting.

Form a team with the goal of finding out where the needs are. It may be easier to get volunteers for this initiative than you suspect, and each person will bring a unique perspective about the data you want to collect. There are many ways to gather this information:

  • Read the local newspaper
  • Talk to public school leaders
  • Get involved in city politics
  • Contact nonprofits to learn about volunteer or donation opportunities

Find Out Which Voices Aren't Being Heard

Take a good look at your congregation. Do the people in leadership reflect the lay members, not only in demographics but also in viewpoint? If this is not the case, you may need to diversify your leadership team to better represent the church.

It's also possible that the members themselves are a homogenous group. Is your church racially diverse? Do your services appeal to those who are neuroatypical? Do you have members all along the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression spectrums, or are regular attendees typically straight and cisgender? The honest answers to these and similar questions may be a clue as to why your church's overall perspective seems limited.

Listen to Stories Within and Around the Congregation

A fallow period in the life of your church is a good time for reflection. Members may have insight, but if they don't know if their input will be heeded, they may opt to keep it to themselves. An anonymous survey can help break the ice. If your faith community is fairly outspoken, personal interviews may be more effective. Either option can result in a wealth of ideas.

Once you start hearing the suggestions of your members, you are likely to become acutely aware of how that feedback resonates in the city around you. For example, one member may express that they are hesitant to invite their LGBTQIA+ friends because, while the church seems friendly enough, they don't really know exactly where it stands on welcoming everyone. Once this is brought to your attention, you may be amazed at how obvious the need to be an inclusive, loving church becomes.

Make Amends for the Hurts the Church Has Caused

In 2020, Gallup reported that, for the first time in the eight decades that the company has been surveying nationwide demographics, the rate of people who claim to be members of a religious organization dropped below 50%. Many people feel there is a divide between their personal values and those that churches tend to convey. Specifically, they claim churches are divisive and judgmental. Being a haven of peace and goodwill to the community can help you buck the trend.

Your hope for your faith community is probably that it will be a beacon of grace and love to the city around it. All you need to do is take the next step toward outward service.

Category: Religion

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