Investing in the Church Beyond Your Walls
For those of us called into local church ministry, whether it’s in a staff or in a volunteer leadership position, our job descriptions rarely ask us to look beyond the walls of our own church facility. And, when we are asked to do so, it’s generally in order to bring families to our own church in order to sit in our seats and hear our weekend message.
Yet, if you do the math, the amount of unchurched people in your town could never fit inside the walls of your church – it just isn’t possible. Which means, if we’re going to actually reach our neighborhoods with the Gospel, we’re going to have to learn to work together with the church down the street. Today, I’d love for you to consider taking a step toward partnering with another church in your community – not because you need more friends, but because your neighbors need to know who Jesus is.
Building a Kingdom, not Castles
A few years ago, I was asked to contribute to a book which asked a handful of ministry leaders to choose one word that they felt represented the most important concept for people in Children’s Ministry as we looked toward the future of our field. My word: Kingdom. I went on to write, and still believe, that our churches would be more effective at ministry if we understood that each congregation in a community has a unique calling and purpose in their context and that, by working together to build the kingdom, we’d better be able to reach those who are lost and hurting in the world around us.
For those of us who find themselves at churches who have legacies of castle building, where the idea of working with other churches in the community might sound like heresy, let me assure you – I’m not asking you to stop inviting people to your church gathering. In fact, I strongly believe that people will be more willing to worship in your faith community if you have a friendly relationship with other churches in town. But, with simple math in mind, there simply aren’t enough seats in your church’s sanctuary or worship center for everyone in your neighborhood to sit in if they showed up on a Sunday.
The Three Mile Challenge
Being able to name what makes your church unique and what you bring to the table in a partnership first requires you to know what other voices are in the conversation. But, in order to do that, you need to know what churches are in your neighborhood. A quick Google search (if you just type “churches near” and then your church name, Google will give you a map of the churches in your area) will give you a great place to start. From there, choose 5-10 churches within three miles of your church and check out their websites – what stands out to you? … what would they offer to a family looking to visit them on a weekend? … who would you connect with on staff if you sent them an email? … if you already know something about that church, what have you heard? Your first steps into partnership should be with the churches on that short list who you already have some connection to. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.
Next Steps into Partnership
Some of us might get intimidated by the idea of partnering with other churches because we think it means that we have to run joint events – massive VBS initiatives that will require us to rent out local stadiums and spend thousands of dollars. However, that’s not what partnership has to look like. Kingdom building begins with relationships long before it ever (IF it ever) leads to events. So, beginning with that list of churches nearby, consider what it would look like to begin praying for three of those churches.
In my marriage, I can generally measure the health of our partnership by how well I know my wife’s prayer requests. That is to say, if I know what’s on her heart and how to pray for the things that she cares most deeply about, then – chances are – we’re probably closer to being on the same page than when my prayers for her are more general. In a similar way, the more details I know about how to pray for the churches in my area, the higher the chances are that I’m in relationship with those churches and that I actually care about the ministry taking place there.
In my community, I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends at Grace Church of Glendora, Cornerstone Church, Grace Church of La Verne, Church of the Open Door and Foothill Church – and, because we pray for each other, I have a better sense for the hearts of the people at those churches and can tell local families what they might find in those congregations that my local church might not be able to offer. Through partnering with those friends, the impact we can have on our community becomes multiplied and our seating capacity on a weekend increases exponentially.
If you want to try something new in caring for your community, try investing in kingdom building by getting to know another church in your area. Though it might not be in your job description, you might get a new friend out of the effort – and, even if you don’t need another friend, your neighbors need a place to worship where they can hear about the Gospel of Jesus.