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A Community Church

A Community Church

being the church when the pews are empty

Over the last few years, I’ve heard a comment/question that has resonated with my soul each time that it’s spoken.  Whether it’s been in the context of a conference, a book, a conversation or a sermon, these words have struck me significantly each time:

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would your community notice?

Now, before I get angry comments below, I’ll quickly say that I don’t think that the church is a building… though, in this context, we’ll assume the church gathers in a building.  The heart of the question is this: is the local gathering of Christ-followers that you’re a part of play a significant role in the community around you?  When thinking through this question today, I wanted to share with you some creative ways some churches are making an impact in their community.

A Substitute Staff

I recently heard of a church where the staff was required to submit an application to become a substitute teacher in their local school district as a part of the hiring process.  You see, the local public school in the church’s community does not have enough substitute teachers… and so, because the church’s heart is for their community, the entire staff also serves as subs in the district.  That’s right: even the Senior Pastor (his favorite class to substitute for is band/music).

The church I’m speaking of is not a large church, but it’s making a large impact in its community.  Because of the staff leading the way, members of the congregation have started to volunteer at the local elementary school as yard duty teachers, crossing guards and maintenance/grounds workers.  This church is bringing Christ to their community by serving their local schools.  It’s kind of brilliant.

A Shelter from the Cold

In our area, there is a coalition of churches who partner together every winter in order to serve, feed and house homeless in our community during the coldest months of the year.  Because we are in a warm climate, the Los Angeles area has a significant homeless population.  During most of the year, many of those without a place to stay can sleep outdoors without significant risk to their health… however, during the winter, there are nights when the temperatures drop and those without a roof over their heads, especially young children, face significant consequences if they’re caught out in the cold overnight.

Churches who are a part of this coalition take turns opening up the doors of their buildings in order to offer shelter and meals during those coldest times of the year.  Local congregations who do not have facilities that could house hundreds of people partner with larger churches and provide volunteers – some of whom specialize in dentistry, medical care, hair styling or other skills that help the homeless population feel cared for and worthy of attention.  These churches care for those who could never repay them for the services they offer and, because of this, offer something significant for their community by offering the love of Christ to those on the margins of society.

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Being a church who cares for your community is BIGGER than being a church who runs events and welcomes your community to come to you.  Being a Community Church often means taking Christ to those who might not yet know Him and who probably have never seen a church who actually cared for those outside of itself.

This last week, I had the privilege of watching our church rally with our community to support a family when their son was dying from cancer.  Moms, students and our church’s staff cared deeply for those who were mourning in ways that I’ve never witnessed before.  Though the family does not attend our church, we found ourselves at the center of helping organize a candlelight vigil for those in the community who needed a place to ask where God was in the midst of tragedy  (Read more about that vigil HERE or HERE).

This week, as you reflect on the role you play in your community, consider what some next steps might be in your context.  What if your church decided to invest deeply in its local school district by providing coaches, PTA members or library volunteers?  Have you ever considered taking an afternoon as a family and baking cookies for your neighbors? (Halloween is coming – reverse trick-or-treating with homemade bread could be a fun idea, right?)

Have you wrestled through this recently or maybe have a brilliant idea to share with the community?
Post your thoughts below!

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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my favorite things: #7 Cargo of Dreams

(stay up to date on this project HERE)

It’s no surprise – I love my church.

But, bigger than that, I love the Church-at-Large when it has a mission.  Recently, our Senior Pastor (http://pastorjamesmiller.com/) reminded our church that it’s our mission to storm the gates of Hell to seek and save the lost.

(link to one of the best Palm Sunday sermons I’ve EVER heard)

I’m a real believer in the Gospel having real life implications now and that eternity isn’t a train that’s coming… it’s already upon us.  With that in mind, I get chills thinking about the work that can be done when God’s people rally in creative ways to give people hope in a lost and broken world.

An organization doing amazing things, that you may have never heard of, is called Cargo of Dreams.

(http://www.cargoofdreams.org/)

When our pastor heard about Cargo of Dreams, he came running to our team and told us that we needed to find a way to get involved in the work they’re doing to bring the Gospel to lost and hurting people around the globe.

The basic premise is this:

  • Your church buys a giant cargo shipping container (pictured above).
  • Your church transforms that container into a ministry environment.
  • CofD then ships that building on a boat to the other side of the world to impact lives in the name of Jesus.

The project our church is a part of is a multi-phase initiative to build a preschool for kids in South Africa who currently gather under a large tree.  I know, I know… what kind of a preschool can meet in a container?!

A church in Salem, OR is building phase one… and it looks a little something like this:

Once we’ve finished phase 2, our container will be shipped to South Africa and placed across from the container that will already in place.  We’ll then send a team of families who will construct a roof to connect the two containers to create a fully operational preschool in a community that is aching to care for the little ones in their township.

Having a hard time seeing that picture in your mind?  Here’s a rough draft of what that might look like…

The church, when it cares about lost and hurting people, is an amazing testament to the love and hope that we have in our Savior.

Want to get involved or have questions about this AMAZING project?
Send me a message via the comments section and I’ll connect with you.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Resources, Thoughts

 

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Missional Children’s Ministry Discussion

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I was recently asked by Glenn Woods (glenwoods.wordpress.com) to join in on a conversation about the missional church movement and the implications it has for children’s ministry.  This morning he posted his first thoughts:

Along with my colleagues Henry Zonio, Anthony Prince, and Shauna Morgan who will be posting today (April 25) on their respective blogs, I intend to introduce in this article the essence of my ministry philosophy specifically as it pertains to missional outreach to children and families. Along with that, I will point out the various ways this philosophy has expressed itself in my ministry up to this point, as well as plans for the near future.

Click HERE to read the rest of his post

A few years ago, I began hearing the term Missional Church more and more as I traveled to conferences and networked with other church leaders.  As I wrestled with what implications a missional mindset had for ministry in my current context, I began to find that not many people in the missional conversation had much to say about children’s ministry.

In order to understand some of what I had to wrestle through, we should first look at what it means to be missional…

What is Missional – A Short Answer

“Jesus told us to go into all the world and be his ambassadors, but many churches today have inadvertently changed the “go and be” command to a “come and see” appeal. We have grown attached to buildings, programs, staff and a wide variety of goods and services designed to attract and entertain people.

“Missional is a helpful term used to describe what happens when you and I replace the “come to us” invitations with a “go to them” life. A life where “the way of Jesus” informs and radically transforms our existence to one wholly focused on sacrificially living for him and others and where we adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture. It speaks of the very nature of the Jesus follower.”

—Rick Meigs

At it’s core, children’s ministry typically exists in a “come to us” format.  In many churches, children’s ministry grew out of a need for the kids to have “something to do” while parents were in church and Bible studies.  So, how do you shift from a “come to us” to a “go to them” paradigm?  That’s the million dollar question in churches wrestling with what it means to become missional.

Our church’s children’s ministry program has a foot in both worlds.

We truly invest in creating an engaging environment for children and their families to come and hear about the Good News of Jesus Christ on our church campus.  We run large events that welcome visitors onto our campus and intentionally leverage those events to create and foster relationships between Christ followers and those not yet connected to a local church.

At the same time, we run multiple off-campus after school clubs in local elementary schools that do not push our church as the only next step to what happens during those clubs.  All told, over 300 children gather weekly on multiple campuses in the programs that our church funds and provides oversight for – yet, we do so with a very missional mindset.  I self censor myself as the main teaching voice on these campuses so that we do not push my church and our programs as the natural next step for every child in attendance.  Our goal is to place a small group leader in the life of every child in our programs so that the children in attendance have at least one person in their life loving them and caring for them in a way that Jesus would.  We’re proud of the fact that on our local public school campuses we pray with children, teach them stories straight from Scripture, show them God’s love for them in tangible and relevant ways, and do so with an end in mind that doesn’t directly feed our church’s attendance numbers.  At the end of each club, we encourage kids to get involved in a local church community… but, we try to not reveal which church is mine.  If a parent asks, I tell them.  Other than that, we let families decide their next step.

Missional ministries are risky.  As a church staff member, I recognize that my paycheck doesn’t come from people who aren’t attending my church.  However, I am a part of a church that realizes that Sunday mornings are a launching point for the ministry that happens weekly outside of our church’s walls.  We will always provide engaging experiences on our campus that meet the needs of families in our community.  At the same time, we know that Jesus calls us to take the Good News of salvation to the world… not simply place it in a box and invite people to come and see it.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2010 in Kidmin

 

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