Becoming Community-Driven

This past Saturday, I did a breakout session at a local ministry training event called the Equip Conference on the topic of “Community-Driven Ministry”.  Below I shared the brief steps from my session to becoming Community-Driven:
(A few of the thoughts below are from a great training tool called ‘Compassion by Design‘)

1.  Identify Needs

  • Step out of the church walls and get into your community:
    • Pay attention to what you hear people saying – take time to listen.
    • The most important thing this does is not to just identify needs, but helps you build relationships.
    • This takes time.  Don’t rush this.  Identifying needs and building relationships will not happen in one evening of walking the streets of your community.
  • Most often, your distant assessment of a community’s needs, even if you’ve lived there a long time, will be very different then an unchurched resident’s assessment.
    • It’s difficult to see the needs in the marketplace when you’re sitting in the comfort of the church.
    • Engaging the community benefits you more than just identifying needs, but meeting the people you are trying to reach.
  • Before you can be community-driven, you have to know what you’re driving towards.
    • What are the pressing needs in your community?
  • How is this done?
    • Through informal community surveys.
    • Through conversations with community officials.
    • Through interactions and involvement in community projects.

2.  Involve Your Church

  • This should not be done by just one leader or pastor.  For Community-Driven ministry to take hold in your church, it must be a value held by the whole church.
  • It takes time for those in your church to come to value this – but the more they are out in the community, the more they will value ministry to the community.
  • We can run this risk of mentally ‘dehumanizing’ the “lost”.  Your goal is to help your people personalize the need of the community.  Put faces to it…it’s not just ‘their problem’ – it’s our problem.
  • Benefits for the church:
    • Helps build relationships in the community
    • Gives understanding to the potential need of adjusting ministry models
    • It drives home the vision of reaching a community to your people

3.  Impact Your Community

  • Once you’ve identified the needs in your community and built relationships.  You need to pray and decide where your organizations’ “sweet spot” is:
    • Where are the most critical needs in the community?
    • What need groups are already present the congregation or team as either overcomers (those walking faithfully while they struggle with life-controlling challenges) or potential leaders?
    • Among which need groups do you sense a readiness for assistance?
    • What resources has God provided?
    • What resources might be available in the community?
    • What are the unique gifts, talents and people that God has placed in the church or on your team?
    • What needs in the community fuel a God-authored sense of compassion?
    • What are the unique callings of the church/leadership team?
    • What is the history of compassionate service in your church?

Keys for success in community-driven ministry:

  • God-inspired Passion
  • Clear understanding of Needs
  • A workable plan of action
  • The right people to execute the plan

Community-Driven Ministry (Part 2)

Continuing my previous post on community-driven ministry, one of the factors that will determine your expression of ministry is who has a voice into your life. Those you listen to, read, or follow will have a huge impact into your expression of ministry. That’s where setting your priorities as a church and ministry comes into play.

To be a community-driven ministry, you have to establish what your priorities are and are not. These priorities along with a church’s ministry setting establish a unique expression of ministry. To be most effective in that expression, it is important that a pastor strives to follow ministers with similar expressions. For example, if a church is reaching out into the inner city of Philadelphia and has a heart to restore drug addicts, their expression of ministry is probably going to be vastly different that of Joel Osteen, Andy Stanley or Mark Driscoll. That doesn’t discount the ministries of these men, it’s just that the methods of expressing the truth of the gospel are different.

Now, one side note: I still think it’s important to gain insight from outside perspectives. What I’m talking about is those you model your ministry after and strive to be like.

So to be community-driven, you need to listen to the podcasts of those that are doing ministry in a similar context, read books from authors that are pushing you toward that context, and follow blogs of those that will challenge how you view your community. Because in the end, it’s not about being cool, hip, missional, or even progressive – it’s about transforming a community.

How are you doing with that?

Community-Driven Ministry

Our church planting network here in Pittsburgh (MCM) is one of community-driven churches.  That’s our passion.  It’s not finding the growing edge or the most affluent community to start a church.  We strive to find hurting, depressed communities that need Jesus and start a church in the middle of it all. Because of the need that is so often represented in our communities, it is very important that our church plants are community-driven.

Community-driven ministry is one that places a high priority on the needs of the community.  One of the major keys for a church is to have a proper perspective of its community.  A church that sees its neighborhood through a lens of frustration rather then one of potential won’t last very long.  It’s important to see your community as a priority, not a liability. God has placed churches and people in communities to help meet needs and show compassion.  The ultimate goal of a community-driven church is to provide ministry from the community to the community. Raising up insiders, community residents, to minister to each other.  If your a pastor and see your community as a liability, I encourage you to do one of two things:

  1. Pray for God to give you a burden for your community; or
  2. Pray that God will lead you to a community that you can have a burden for.

What are you doing to reach your community?  Do you view your community as a liability or as a priority?

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