By Jason Daye
If your church wants to be effective at building bridges into your community, then you must have a good understanding of your local community. Where are you? Who lives around you? What are their backgrounds? What are their concerns? What is the DNA of the neighborhood in which God has called you to serve?
Every church serves in a unique context, so you must know the community around you. Without this understanding, your church shouldn’t rush outreach efforts. If you jump ahead, you will likely waste time, energy, effort, and resources if you do not first understand the people around you.
Here are five ways to get to know your community.
Talk to local school principals, counselors, and teachers.
In one church I served, an elementary school was across the street. Not long after I moved to the area, I scheduled a meeting with the principal and counselors. In that meeting I not only introduced myself but also asked a lot of questions about the community.
Interview people in the neighborhood.
Talking to those around who gather in areas around your church will help you to better understand what people in your neighborhood are thinking and feeling. I have a friend in Chicago whose church members talk to people at bus stops. These conversations open doors for people to share their needs and struggles and provides your church the opportunity to show that you care about your community.
Talk to other pastors and ministry leaders in your area.
Often, insecurities, competition, and a lack of trust keep pastors and churches from meeting and partnering together. Don’t let that be the case for your church. Meet with these pastors and ministry leaders and find ways that you can lock arms to better share the hope of Jesus Christ in your community. This also allows you the opportunity to glean from the experience and knowledge of those who may have been in the community longer than you.
Do a demographics study.
These studies provide a snapshot of your neighborhood. You can find all kinds of statistics online or hire an organization to compile this information for your area. Significant data that influences your church’s outreach to your community includes marital and family status, income and education levels, ethnic backgrounds, and crime rates.
Talk to community leaders.
Like those who serve in schools and individuals in your neighborhood, community leaders have great insight into the needs of your area. Their insight can help your church uncover some of the best ways to serve your community.
It is essential that you know who it is that God has called your church to serve. Take the time to first know them before you jump into outreach efforts.
Jason Daye is the Vice President of Mobilization at Outreach Inc.