I was talking with a friend recently about the vitality of our downtown area. My friend commented that when the head of a manufacturing company was deciding whether to locate a plant in our town, he asked to see the downtown area. If the downtown area was alive, he felt that the community was open to growth.
In many smaller communities like ours, the real action is at the fringes of the town, usually close to the major highway or interstate. Although this is true of our town as well, the downtown square continues to be an active area where people can gather for various events. On a recent Saturday, there were several events going on at the same time. The weekly farmer’s market was being conducted while folk dancers from several countries were performing on the east side of the Courthouse. Just a few blocks away, a group was observing Juneteenth with music, games, and speakers. Our downtown is a unique part of our community because people have chosen to invest in it.
Our churches minister in different kinds of communities. They differ by size, social expectation, economic health, racial makeup and many other factors. As we consider the most effective ministries for a particular church, we must first come to understand the community where the church is located and where it will invest itself. We might consider these factors as we develop local ministries for our churches.
First, what are the greatest strengths of our community? What ministries or services are being done well by various organizations and other congregations? Can we partner with them to make a good situation better?
Second, what are the points of greatest need? Are there people in our congregation who are especially gifted to meet those needs? If so, how do we encourage, empower, and equip them to address that need?
Third, are there hidden needs that we can discover and address? To find these, we may need to talk with educators, police officers, and health professionals who work regularly with people who “fly under the radar” and will never cross the threshold of our churches. Perhaps we need to talk to folks in the community who are not affiliated with any religious group and feel disenfranchised.
Every community is special in its own way. That is why God has uniquely gifted each church for ministry in its own context.