In Church Planting, the ability to see the possibilities for relationships, ministry, & engagement in the community will determine much for the church’s future impact in the community. Engaging the community is fun, easy in most places (especially in the south), & can lead to many seeds planted, if you’re willing to risk & build relationships.
Here are 8 Places of Engagements in almost every community that I’ve found WIDE OPEN to relationship with a church. This is a continuation of the series Planting Seeds & Cultivating Relationships in Church Planting (Part 1, Part 2).
Members of Stillwater Church in Hammond pass out healthy snacks to kids getting off the bus at a local mobile home park.
11. Multi-Housing Communities – Multi-Housing Complexes offer many potential points of contacts with all different kinds of people. One easy, low cost, highly relational way to make some people smile & start a conversation is to pick up some boxes of snacks & juice boxes & setup at a common bus stop at an apartment complex or trailer park after school. Our church does this the week before kid friendly events that we’d like to promote. Stillwater Church in Hammond has seen a new church birth, utilizing the after school bus stop as a primary way to make connections in two large mobile home parks in their area.
12. Community Agencies – Council on Aging, Volunteers of America, Boys & Girls Club, Local Fire Dept., Local Police Dept., Town Council, local Crisis Pregnancy Center, Mayor’s offices, local utility companies, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Revitalization committees, local Work Release Program. These are a handful of the community agencies that our church plants have worked with that exist in almost every community in North America. Great partners, often looking for volunteers, & often wondering why churches don’t offer to help. And believe it or not, we’ve found no problems from most community agencies with the expectation that we as a church would also be sharing the gospel with people we serve. Projects, partners, points of contact with the community is a phone call away.
13. Area Daycares – Private daycares are often open to allowing churches to make contact with families they serve. We have built relationships with daycares in our area that have allowed us to come in & do Gospel centered activities with kids. We also send posters & invites to any kid friendly special event (Easter Egg Hunt, Trunk or Treat, etc.) to local daycares & have found that many of them will post them on a bulletin board & some will pass them out to parents picking up their kids. Start by making a list of area daycares & consider including them in service opportunities & invites to special events.
14. Rec Fields – Another great way to both invest in the community & get some name recognition is to get a sign on the fences of local recreation fields. $200-500 can get your logo, name, website in front of a large % of unchurched people in your community. And the interaction with key leaders in the recreation programs can be a great thing for your personal network as a church planter as well. I’ve also seen churches serve rec fields in other ways: Inflatables & face painting on opening day, free snow cones, free souvenir pictures. I’ve also thought about the possibility of offering a Sunday morning worship time at our local ball field with 100’s pouring in every weekend for travel ball leagues.
Bridge Church in Madisonville, doing free balloon animals & face painting at a local festival in 2014.
15. Community Festivals – In Louisiana, there is some kind of festival going almost every weekend. Festivals offer a variety of opportunities for churches to engage the people of the community. First & maybe most importantly, the impact of getting to know leaders of festivals on most occasions also means getting to know key leaders in the city or town. Getting involved lets them know that you’re on their side & want to see the community succeed. A few ways that I’ve seen churches reach out to festivals: Serve by picking up trash all day, Face Painting, Kids Games, sponsor entertainment, Free Souvenir pictures, Festival volunteers, Setup & tear down. Many other ways to engage people. Remember your Invite Cards (see part 1), go unselfishly to serve the community, & have fun! Louisiana Festivals are the best!
16. Funeral Homes – Outreach to funeral homes? As a brand new church planter in the community, as I was networking, I stopped by several area funeral homes with a card & an offer to preach the funeral for anyone that didn’t have a pastor already. To my surprise, I soon found myself doing 4-5 funerals every week. Which proved to be emotionally exhausting, but served as a great way to connect with families at a time they needed the Gospel & relationships built around faith more than ever. People will NEVER forget you, when you’re able to be there with them in the valley of the shadow of death.
17. Community Networks – A network is a group or system of interconnected people. They are everywhere in your community & most are ready & willing to connect new people to the group. Get your church plant involved in the local Chamber of Commerce. Most have a Non-Profit membership stream & I’ve found that they love having churches involved. Early on in the life of one of our church plants, I joined what was called a BNI, or Business Network International. People paid to join a group that commits to help each other promote their respective businesses. They loved having a church in the group. Made all kinds of connections in that network. Church planting is about networking & you don’t have to recreate the wheel at the outset. Join the community networks & relationships will lead to seeds planted & opportunities to share the Gospel.
18. Local Hospitals – In the New Testament, we see Jesus often ministering to people at the point of illness, disease, & grief. There are several ways that a church plant can engage people at this point of need. Find out if the hospital has a volunteer chaplain program. In my community, our local baptist association has built this bridge to several local hospitals & pastors & lay people are trained & empowered to meet needs through chaplaincy work. Stock the Waiting rooms. Waiting rooms can be lonely, cold places. Get permission to put fruit baskets, magazines, fresh donuts, Bibles, or whatever you can in the waiting rooms. And don’t forget the gift of presence. Drop by & give the gift of a listening ear & encouraging words. One of my favorite servant evangelism projects is pick up a handful of gift cards to the nearest restaurants & drop by the ICU waiting room & give them away. Remember, this ministry is not about you! Only go if you can realistically put the needs of others first. This can be a great ministry for those with the gifts of mercy in your church plant.
What other Places of Engagement would you add to this list?