Engaging and Participating in Community
Churches tend to be great at creating a tight knit culture within the walls of their buildings. We build programs and develop systems to foster community around the people who are already a part of the church. But when it comes to engaging the places outside of ourselves, we tend to fall well short in forming genuine community.
When I think about ways to engage and participate in the places in my neighborhood and community there are three guiding principles I use to build bridges and form community. These three principles help me understand how to develop long lasting relationships with the people in our communities and serve to help guide Missio as we think about how to engage the world around us.
Their Events, Their Spaces: Churches struggle to know how to engage in neighborhoods and communities because we have developed the idea that we need to be the ones who create and build for the people living near us. However, one of the fundamental truths we miss when we adopt this kind of thinking is that the people in our neighborhoods, and the organizations in our communities, are incredibly gifted and creative in building ways to serve, love, and care for the people near them. One of the easiest and most effective ways of engaging in community is to find the people and groups who are doing the most good and partner in the events they are hosting in the spaces they are hosting them.
For example, Northgate Elementary puts on a Multicultural Night every year which is a big moment for the families in that school to showcase their cultural heritage, the foods they eat, the clothes and dances that a part of their culture. Instead of a church feeling the need to recreate this kind of event for their neighborhood, one of the best ways to form community is to partner with and participate in helping execute the event. Missio has served alongside NGE to put on the Multicultural night in the past, and Lord willing, will continue to do so in the future.
Our Events, Their Spaces: There are moments where an organization has the desire to serve a demographic in the community but may not have the resources, people, or creativity to pull it off. This is where churches can come in and volunteer to host events and create opportunities to serve while using the spaces provided by the organization.
The Haller Lake Missio Community is a great example of this. They are partnering with one of the retirement centers in Northgate to put on a Bingo Night once a month. This event was initiated and run by the Haller Lake Missio Community but is hosted at the Retirement Center, rather than one of our spaces.
Our Events, Our Spaces: Still there are many opportunities where as a church we will create events and host them in our spaces. These are the types of things we have traditionally done well in forming as churches.
The Missio Church Launch is a great example of this. On April 29th we will be worshiping together and then inviting our neighborhood and community to celebrate with us by eating and enjoying a morning of fun and celebration.
This holistic approach to developing partnerships and relationships in our community can be done on a small or large scale. As a church we will look to engage in all three arenas. But also as individuals we can look to use this approach to engage deeper with people. Ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time you went to a neighborhood meeting (their event, their space)?
- When was the last time you offered to help organize a school event or neighborhood cookout in the park (Our Event, Their Space)?
- When was the last time you invited people into your home for games, food, or just for conversation? (Our Event, Our Space)?
We have made engaging with people and organizations too difficult. When in reality it is so much more simple than what we have previously made it. It’s about taking a genuine interest in the things people are interested in. It’s in sharing genuinely with others the interests you have. And it’s about choosing to ask the question, “how can we make this a great place for all of us to live?” Start doing this and you will find open doors all over your neighborhood for the gospel of Jesus to begin to be rooted in people’s hearts.
Let’s engage and participate this week in the spaces and places around us.