June 26, 2019
This is the last week of our blog series about ways to connect our church with the wider community. Today is thinks about how to “Connect spiritual outreach to community service.” These posts are inspired by the work of Robert Crossman, Ann A. Michel, Kim Mitchel, and Lovett H. Weems, Jr., as found in the article https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-take-church-to-the-community/from the Lewis Centre for Christian Leadership.
I hope you have appreciated these 50 ideas. This section has the last 8 ideas to consider. I wonder how we might think about this in our context here at CHWUC. Please know that I would be thrilled to talk about any of these ideas in this series with any of you anytime while I am still working at the minister of Spiritual Care here. The thought from the original article appears in blue, with my commentary underneath as it applies to us in our context at CHWUC.
This last set of ideas are actually a very insightful set of questions for any church serious about engaging church and community in relationship to consider. I strongly urge a working group to begin thinking about these things if we are truly serious about community engagement as a goal!
Connect spiritual outreach to community service
This is true. It is important to acknowledge that those that come to our food bank likely do not have any other connection to our church. Before Step 44. it matters that we reflect what that means about our outreach.
Step 44. Ask if these ministries inadvertently convey an “us and them” attitude or communicate that “you are not worthy of joining us.”
Another important consideration as we go forward. Do we really consider people that do not come to Sunday morning worship, yet enter our building in another way during the week a part of our community. How often have you heard (or maybe even said yourself), “Gee, when was the last time we saw them darken the doors of the church?” and only mean on Sunday morning? In what ways do we see those that may be in this space as much as we are as “the other” – are we truly interested in changing that? If so, then how?
Step 45. Identify aspects of church life, such as characteristics of the building or how people dress, that may make some feel unwelcome. Are there alternatives that may reduce barriers for some to enter?
This church has already done a good job of creating a welcoming space in the sanctuary. What other ways would help others feel welcome? How do we help others engage in worship with us? Are we welcoming when new people arrive? Do we ensure that we take time to say hello if we don’t recognize the person beside us?
Step 46. Treat everyone as a person of dignity who deserves respect.
You would think this is a no-brainer, but it is not and it is really important that we work to remember this always.
Step 47. Extend genuine hospitality to those you serve.
What is genuine hospitality? This is the real work here. What do we mean when we say we practice hospitality? How can we extend genuine hospitality if we don’t even know what we mean when we say it?
Step 48. Focus first on building relationships of understanding and trust.
Finally, we have to WANT to build these kinds of relationship for them to happen, they will not happen organically.
These last two points are for the matter of group discussion.
Step 49. Consider adding a spiritual or discipleship element to community service activities but without any sense of expectation or requirement. For example, have a service or study following ESL classes for any interested.
Step 50. Seek to conduct each activity in a way that connects people to God and the church.
Thanks for joining me these last 9 week to consider these points. This is also my last official day in the office. I hope you will take these 9 blogposts as my recommendations for this community of faith as you work to live into your desire to engage with the wider community. This is not the work of one person, but the work of a whole community. Christ has called all of us to be disciples and that is what we have been talking to here: Discipleship.
Your in the Peace and Love of Jesus Christ,
Rev. Kim Curlett
Minister of Spiritual Care