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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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Love Your Neighbor Month

For the last couple of years, our kids’ ministries have used February as a time to help families in our church and in our community focus on caring for the needs of others.  Rather than simply doing a token Valentine’s day craft, we take an entire month to look at what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  Let me share a couple things we’ve done over the last few Februarys in our ministries.

Partnering with local Public Schools

We’ve partnered with a local public school district to raise funds, supplies and awareness for a program in our community that reaches at-risk kids.  As a church, we have a strong relationship with the surrounding school districts – I was only a little surprised when I was approached last year with the idea of coming alongside a program that gives children who are struggling in school (socially and/or academically) a space to let go of their worries and connect with a few caring adults through creative play.  We asked the program for a list of toys needed to make the year a success and gave out the list to families on Sunday mornings.  Families were encouraged to bring in new and slightly used toys to give to this program – they were also encouraged to pray, as a family, for the kids who would be ministered to through their donations.  It was a fairly simple idea and a great way for families to serve other kids in the community through giving.

Partnering with Local Food Pantries

We’re blessed to be a part of a church that created and launched a food pantry that is now large enough that it operates as it’s own non-profit organization.  Because of the partnership that already exists between the pantry and ourselves, we are able to find out what the most immediate needs are in terms of food donations – it’s a list of those needs that we’ve passed on to families during the month of February for them to rally around and donate toward as they talk about what it means to truly care for others in the community.  It’s a blessing to watch children and families drop food into the shopping carts we set out to collect donations – one mom even bragged to me that the donations she brought in were all free to her because of her savvy use of coupons.  Very cool.

Partnering with Our Families

One of the things I totally LOVE about the resources we use on Sunday mornings at our church is that our families are being equipped to live out “loving their neighbors” in their own homes, schools and neighborhoods.  I dig watching our kids learn about being KIND to others all month long and hearing stories from parents who tell me that their kids are actually putting our Sunday morning lessons into practice.  It’s been neat watching our kids learn to love those who live outside of their homes and down the street from them – it’s been a cool experience as I’ve watched the rubber meet the road in how they’re dealing with the people who live down the hall from them.  Loving your neighbor is bigger than caring for the people in your own house, that’s for sure.  However, our brothers, sisters and parents provide great practice for us to show God’s love toward others – and February is a great month to reinforce that idea.

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Those are just a few of the ways that we’ve decided to leverage a month where the world around us is elevating the idea of “love” in order to teach kids and their families to care for others in their home and in their community.  If your church or your family has taken a different approach to this concept, you can share your thoughts below in the comments area – we’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Kidmin

 

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Interviewing the Mirror: First and Last Impressions

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I want to you to consider all of the options a family has on a Sunday morning.

If, by the time a family in your community has weighed all of their weekend options, they arrive at your church to drop their kids off – you need to recognize that they’ve made a pretty big decision.  And, what happens in their first 5 minutes and last 5 minutes will shape their memory of your program.

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A few years ago, I was interviewing a handful of applicants for an internship position at our church.  A young man had submitted his resume and had reached the point in our application process where he came in for a face-to-face interview.  Let me share a couple memories from the first and last moments of this interview:

FIRST IMPRESSION

Me: “Welcome [applicant], make yourself comfortable.”

Applicant: *trips* *falls* *gets up and takes a seat*

Me: “Are you alright?”

Applicant: *sneezes* *wipes large amounts of snot onto his shorts* “… can I start over?”

FINAL IMPRESSION

Me: “Thanks, [applicant] for your time.  As we wrap things up, do you have any questions for us – or is there anything about you that you haven’t shared and you’d like us to know?”

Applicant: “Well… I failed a couple courses in college.  Do you need to know that?  It’s not because I didn’t do the projects – I just never finished them.  I have a hard time finishing things.  I get kind of bored easily.  That’s why I’m taking some time off of school.  I want to do something a little easier…”

*silence*

Applicant: “…can I start over?”

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I came across some paperwork from this interview a few days ago and, to be quite honest, I was surprised at all of the notes I had taken.  In my memory, this interview only lasted a few minutes… though, in reality, it was much longer.  This guy will always be the clumsy/lazy/sneezer in my mind because of the first and last impressions he gave our team.  The reality is, he never got to start over.  There was no RESET button on his interview.

This weekend, you have a chance to make first and last impressions on families in your community.  They will see, in their first 5 minutes, how much you care about cleanliness and hygiene.  Flu season is around the corner… do you have hand sanitizer readily available in your ministry environments?  Parents will know, at first glance, if you have a process in place to keep their children safe and secure in your ministry.  But, if you have a check-in system, you need to evaluate how quick it is.  If your check in process takes longer than 180 seconds, Gina McClain would says that you’re making one of the biggest mistakes possible in children’s ministry.
When parents return, are you being strategic about your last impressions?  Parents are going to ask kids two basic questions during pick-up: 1) Did you have fun? and 2) What did you learn?  If children in your program cannot answer those questions, that is the thing most parents will remember.  If you hope for a family to return, you need to make sure you’re being intentional about the last impressions they have as they leave campus.

At the end of the day, your ministry has one shot to make a first impression.  Many parents decide whether or not they will return to a church long before they make it to your worship center or sanctuary.  Help them make the decision to return by evaluating the first impressions they have on your church’s campus.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2009 in Kidmin

 

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Things I should hate more than I do: #12 Sporadic Attendance.

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There’s a funny thing about our church.

We have about twice as many kids who are active in our Sunday programs (attend at least twice a month) than are showing up on a typical Sunday.  In fact, only 5% of our kids attended weekend programs at least 40 times this last year.  To me, that’s a staggering number.

We’re in the process of creating an experience for families on Sunday mornings that they won’t want to miss.  It would be fantastic if, when a family feels like they need to spend more “family time” together, they came to church instead of taking a picnic lunch to the beach.  Going to church should never be a burden on families – we should be equipping them to “do family” better.

I’d like to say that, in a lot of ways, we’re getting there – but we’re not there yet, obviously.

Here’s the kicker: unfortunately, I don’t hate our sporadic attendance… though it’s hard for me to admit.

If, somehow, every actively attending family came on one Sunday, we wouldn’t have room for all of their children.  Putting that in writing makes my heart a little sad.
As a team, we’ll soon be discussing how to creatively shift how we’re using our space in order to have room for these families when they do begin to attend more regularly.  But, for now, we can only fit so many kids into the space we have for them on our campus.

I should hate our sporadic attendance.
Maybe, with a little bit of help, I’ll get there.

Would you like to help our team develop a strategic plan for how to use our space?
Send us a tweet @prince4jc or leave your contact info in the comments section.
We’ll give you some specific information about our current layout and let you think creatively about alternative solutions ot our space issues.
Comments and suggestions will compiled and published in an upcoming post!

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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To Drill or not to Drill

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Last year, our church participated in The Great Shakeout – a regional event in Southern California where local communities simulated what to do in the event of a massive earthquake.

After our regular worship services on a Sunday morning, we simulated an evacuation of our classrooms and what our pick up procedures would look like in the event of an emergency.  Parents and leaders were encouraged to know that we had a plan in place and our elementary-aged kids had a fun time running drills in their classrooms.

I began thinking of how great this event was a few weeks ago when our campus parking lot was used as a rally point during a local bank robbery.  Men held up a nearby bank at gunpoint and stashed a secondary getaway car on our campus.  Quickly arriving on the scene after the initial pursuit, local law enforcement agents spent just under an hour combing our campus with firearms drawn.

Now, luckily for our children and our programs, all of this took place on an evening when there were just a few people on campus… but, it made me wonder how often we should run emergency simulations with our leaders and what policies we should have on hand and which of these should be available for public knowledge.

Currently, we plan to run an evacuation drill annually with our kids on campus.
We walk our leaders through a handful of scenarios during orientation and we talk about the differences between evacuation and lock-down procedures.

So, my question to the community is this:

What drills are you running with your kids and leadership teams and how often do you simulate emergency events?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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Batting Last

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Little League is a big deal in the community I live in.  More so than any other place I’ve lived in.

So, basically, baseball stories carry a lot of weight around here.
If you can relate a lesson or a teaching moment to the baseball diamond, you’ve got everyone’s attention.

I have a friend who’s son bats last on his little league team.  The coach doesn’t rotate the batting order and so, for his entire season, this 1st grader knows that each game he’ll only have 2 at bats.  In the coach’s mind, giving this kid two at bats each game minimizes the chances he has to fail.  Striking out 3 times, in this line of thought, is far worse than only striking out twice.

The 1st grader, on the other hand, feels that much more pressure at each at bat because he knows this chance won’t come again soon.

Many of us in Children’s Ministry share the same experience as that little boy.  If we’re lucky, we’ll have a few times during the year when we can sprint away from our kids’ program on a Sunday morning to catch a look at the Adult Worship Service.  Those of us with willing pastors may even have a chance now and then to speak in front of the crowd and cast vision for the work we’re a part of.
But, like my 1st grade friend, our at bats are limited.

This has driven many of us to search out creative ways to cast vision for the church we’re a part of.

Some of us show video testimonies and promotional clips in adult worship services, highlighting Children’s Ministry.
Others have learned to multiply the impact we have with our adult congregants getting involved in areas outside of Sunday morning.

I want to share with you some of the ways I’m ensuring I get more “at bats” with the adults in our congregation, but I’d love to hear from you first.

What are some ways you cast vision for your church?

Use the comments section below to share some creative ways you’re getting your message to the ears of your congregation!

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2009 in Kidmin, Los Angeles

 

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Can a CM Call Out Sick?

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Kids are germ hotels.
From their grimy hands to their runny noses, kids are walking disease incubators.

So, it’s inevitable that those of us who put our bodies in that line of fire week in and week out will come down with some sort of hybrid mutant cold/flu/virus at some point during the year.
The question then becomes, what happens to your programming when you’re out sick?  Or… do you take a sick day?  If you’re out sick, do they cancel Sunday school?  Does your church allow you to be sick?

For many of us, it’s much easier to take a Monday off than a Sunday.  For some, it’s because we can do our work from home during the week, but cannot invite church over to our houses on a weekend.  For others, like myself, it becomes a control issue more than anything else.
As I wrestle through the annual battle of taking a weekend off, I begin asking questions like:

  • Do I trust my team enough to let them run a Sunday morning?
  • Have I trained my leaders well enough that they can take on extra roles in my absence?
  • In the event of an emergency, have our plans been communicated well enough that I don’t have to be there to provide oversight?
  • If programs run well without me, then is there a need for my position?

If you’ve wrestled with these questions, or questions like them, I’d love for you to share your stories in the comments section.

Everyone gets sick.  What happens when it’s the Children’s Pastor?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2009 in Kidmin

 

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