Spiritual Outreach

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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

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Beyond Church Walls

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June 19, 2019

Today we consider what it might mean to “Extend your congregation’s spiritual presence beyond church walls.”This is week 8 in our 9 week blog series about ways to connect our church with the wider community. 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.

This section has 8 ideas to consider. I wonder how we might think about this in our context here at CHWUC. The thought from the original article appears in blue, with my commentary underneath as it applies to us in our context at CHWUC.

Extend your congregation’s spiritual presence beyond church walls

Step 35. Recognize that many “unchurched” people are spiritually inclined but apprehensive about attending church because they feel unwelcome, distrust institutions, or have been hurt in the past.

My grad project at Atlantic School of Theology addresses folks who identify as Spiritual-but-not-Religious in the United Church. My research concludes that The United Church of Canada can be and is (in many cases) a welcoming community for people that are seeking spiritual community, but not interested in subscribing to a particular doctrine. We have doctrine in The United Church of Canada, but the great thing is that we don’t require our members to claim belief in any particular statements of faith to be a part of our communities of faith. If you are interested in my presentation about this subject please visit this link: https://youtu.be/2-WMg6Jr9CE

Step 36. Pay attention to the heightened receptiveness to spiritual engagement around religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

We all know that many people who might claim our church as their church only attend worship at Christmas and sometimes Easter. But, here’s the thing, they do still come. There is something about coming here that matters to them and is a part of their own spiritual traditions around these holidays. This is STILL spiritual engagement and such a beautiful time to connect with people who are seeking something by coming here. Imagine what it would be like if they experienced something meaningful and relevant in worship, but also receive a warm welcome from others, and an intentional invitation to future opportunities for spiritual engagement.

Step 37. Offer offsite worship services on special days, such as Christmas Eve, Palm Sunday, and Easter. Select familiar venues where people feel comfortable — parks, restaurants, parking lots, coffee houses.

Now this is a novel idea! What would it look like to offer opportunities for spiritual engagement and worship IN THE COMMUNITY instead of expecting the community to come to us. And this does not mean that we don’t also have worship in the church, but it is about expanding our notions of what worship is and where it has to happen. What would a Christmas Eve service look like at Shubie Park? Or a Palm Sunday parade/hike on the Salt Marsh Trail? We already do a sunrise service on Easter Sunday morning, but how do we really promote this in the community?

Step 38. Offer imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday in public places.

I know for a fact that some of our Anglican Colleagues in HRM did this this past Ash Wednesday and it was well shared on Social Media. This is a very public opportunity to connect with people and something seriously worth considering as you think about engaging the community at large going forward.

Step 39. Partner with other institutions (such as nursing homes, hospitals, or prisons) or commercial establishments (restaurants, bars, shopping centers, or sports facilities) to offer worship services to their constituents or clientele on special days.

This is one area where we are working in the community already. We have a relationship with local nursing homes and have meetings in public places like pubs. The meetings are for us, have we considered how to more publicly invite others to join us for worship in public places like a pub or a pizza joint? It would be an interesting experiment to see who might be interested in sharing in a worship time in these public places!

Step 40. Plan creative outdoor events, such as live nativities or “blessing of the animals” services, to help make your church visibly present to the community in creative ways.

This past Christmas this was done in Windsor, NS and it was a sold out event. People drove from all over the province to attend the live nativity. Is there a way that we could be involved with Cole Harbour Heritage Farm for something like that? Imagine the possibilities

Step 41. Hold your Vacation Bible School in a local park or recreation center. Canvas nearby neighborhoods to invite families.

Have we considered this idea? Of all the ideas that we have considered in this set, I’m not as convinced by this one. We also have to consider that the building that we do have is a great resource and not far out of the community centre. We have an excellent space for Vacation Bible School here. The work then is to make sure we are able to inform and invite our community to it, and like our intention with worship and spiritual engagement opportunities, make it meaningful and relevant to the kids and families that take part.

Step 42. Reach out to local media. Community outreach is often newsworthy, and reporters are often looking for religiously themed stories around the holidays.

This. This. And all of this. Sometimes as church folks we have been shy about letting others know what is happening because we are so afraid of being “that kind of Christian” that brags about church and has a conversion agenda. As a result, our willingness to share the great news about what our church is about and what it is doing in the community is sometimes the best kept secret. Churches that preach hate and division get a lot of attention and it is high time that those of us that are actually practicing what we preach and striving to love our neighbours like Jesus taught us get BOLD and LOUD and share so others come to know God and God’s love through our good work. The God that people see in the media is so often one of fear, shame, and judgement and those of us who know better need to shout that from the rooftops. Let’s let Love speak louder than Hate!

In the Peace and Love of Christ,

~Kim Curlett

Minister of Spiritual Care

pwwpchwuc

Reaching Out

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For the second post today, we consider what it might mean to “reach out through community events”. This is week 7 in our 9 week blog series about ways to connect our church with the wider community. 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.

This section has 9 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.

Reach out through community events”

Step 26. Plan “bridge events” designed explicitly to draw people from the community by providing for them something they need or enjoy — block parties, free concerts, seasonal events, parenting classes, sports camps, or school supply giveaways, etc. Source: Get Their Name by Bob Farr, Doug Anderson, and Kay Kotan (Abingdon Press, 2013)

We have a huge parking lot on the corner of a very busy road! There is so much we could do in this space! We also have access to the wonderful Salt Marsh Trails and Rainbow Haven Beach so very close by. How exciting would it be to host something like a free family fun day complete with games, those blow-up castles etc., and a BBQ. And what about a Free Concert with some great local talent outside? I strongly recommend the book listed above as a resource to get started on as any group starts to think about ideas like this. This kind of annual event can become a cornerstone to building the church’s involvement in the community.

Step 27. Hold these events off church property or outside the church walls in venues where people feel comfortable and naturally congregate.

See above – with the beach and the trail close by we have lots of options. It’s great to host stuff in places where others feel most comfortable. Sometimes we think we have to host everything inside the church, but sometimes that is a barrier for folks who have never been inside a church or were hurt last time they were in one. Coming into our home may make them uncomfortable, but meeting us on common ground may provide just the welcoming atmosphere required for developing relationship!

Step 28. Get the word out through a well-planned publicity campaign.

In this age, there is no reason for people not to know about anything through word of mouth and social media. While it is true that not everyone has a computer, it is true that everyone knows someone who does. Sharing news about events and celebrations that our church is hosting is the NUMBER ONE FREE way to let people know about us. Another way is through inviting the media to know about what we are up to and what interesting and innovating things we may be doing – if we are doing them. In this age of bad news stories, there are plenty of outlets looking to report some good news!

Step 29. Encourage church members to invite their friends and neighbors. It is less threatening for them to invite someone to a community event than to worship.

Too many of us are shy or even ashamed to share, but if we want our church communities to be meaningful and relevant to the community around us then we have to be bold in sharing what we are up to. Sometimes our church lives are our best kept secret. Ask yourself, “why would anyone want to be a part of something you’d rather not talk about”? Start sharing and intentionally inviting people to YOUR church!

Step 30. Avoid explicitly religious themes: no preaching, prayers, pressure, or financial appeals that might turn people off or reinforce negative stereotypes about church.

Reaching out into the community is about the community, not about the church. This is an opportunity to PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH, not an opportunity to preach. If folks feel inspired to take part in worship after we show them love then that is up to them and the Holy Spirit. But, the true nature of this work is about reaching out and loving our neighbour as Jesus commanded us to do.

Step 31. Remember, the event itself is not the purpose. The purpose is to meet people where they are and build relationships. Mingle. Get to know people.

I have seen this before. Church folks plan an event and invite the community and the community comes and the church folks are too busy in the background or talking to each other to engage those they invited. We have to start thinking about church as our house. Imagine inviting people into your home and never engaging them in conversation, but staying in the kitchen the whole time and just hoping they enjoy the food? That’s no fun for anyone and certainly doesn’t build relationships. We are called to be braver than that. It’s time to make some new friends!

Step 32. Have a well-trained hospitality team. Make sure guests are enjoying themselves and know their attendance is appreciated.

Let’s say that again, “a well-trained hospitality team” – some call this a “welcome committee” – whatever you call it, it matters. Taking the time to train people to be intentional with our welcome and ensuring guests’ needs are being met makes it even easier for those not “working” on the team to engage more casually. This team can help wrangle the other church folks in attendance too and encourage them to engage with our guests!

Step 33. Gathering people’s names and information about them will permit follow up to those for whom it is appropriate.

Having someone walking around asking if folks would like to be on our mailing list is so easy. It’s an invitation not a requirement. Such a clipboard should not be at the entrance on a table as if it is an expectation or part of registration. Someone friendly who mingles and asks is more welcoming and more in line with what this is about. It can’t be pushy. It’s about a way to stay connected, not sell anything to anyone. The person collecting these contacts should also have a card (or better yet, a magnet) with the church’s contact information to hand out to everyone they talk to.

Step 34. Invite those who attend community events to another event — sometimes called a “hand off event” — planned to draw them into a deeper relationship.

This is a really important thing to consider when planning community events. All events should include follow-up ideas and dreams for what’s next so that those who attend can get excited about coming to the next thing! Never think of events as one-offs or “ifthis one works out we will tryso-and-so”. Always have a plan with the assumption that your event will be a success. Never plan for your event to fail! It might, but a positive attitude is never wasted.

Next week’s post is considering ideas to “Extend your congregation’s spiritual presence beyond church walls”.Until then, get talking to each other about this stuff. If you’ve read this, share it with someone at church and get a conversation going.

Offered in the Peace of Christ,

Rev. Kim Curlett

Minister of Spiritual Care

pwwpchwuc

Looking out

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June 5, 2019

This is the first of two posts today (June 12, 2019). Last week I was working from home as I wasn’t feeling well and somehow failed to post this!

As we continue to work our way through 50 ways to connect our church with the wider community, we turn to thinking about what it means to “Turn Your Existing Ministries Outward”. 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.

So, let’s consider the following three ideas (The thought from the original article appears in blue, with my commentary underneath as it applies to us in our context at CHWUC).

“Turn your existing ministries outward”

Step 23. Challenge each church group with an inside focus to find a way to become involved with the community outside the church. A choir might sing at a nursing home, or trustees could sponsor a neighborhood clean-up.

Consider, what activity outside the church walls would best align with my church group’s passions and work to serve some need in the community? I love the two ideas above, but what other ideas could the groups at CHWUC come up with beyond these two? Do you have an idea you would like to share? Be brave – start something!

Step 24. Extend recruiting and advertising for church groups and events to audiences beyond your congregation. For example, recruit for choir members in a local paper or community list serve.

Great example! – we have a wonderful choir at this church with an amazing director and world class accompaniment. Have we advertised for new choir members beyond our walls? What other wonderful groups do we have happening here that we might want to invite others to outside of Sunday morning?

Step 25. Build relationships with those taking part in existing programs that serve the community, such as ESL classes, food pantry or clothes bank users, daycare families, etc.

We have a few things that run in this space that are not “church” activities. Have we engaged parents from the daycare or families from the guiding programs? Or what about the folks that come to our food bank? Have we intentionally engaged in conversation with those folks about how we might be in relationship with each other in new and mutually beneficial ways?

Lots to think about in these three short steps. Check out the next post that engages us in thinking about “Reach out through community events”. It is a much longer section and I think are really valuable steps to taking this kind of work to the next level!

Until then, get talking to each other about this stuff. If you’ve read this, share it with someone at church and get a conversation going.

Offered in the Peace of Christ,

Rev. Kim Curlett

Minister of Spiritual Care

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Healthy Boundaries = Healthy Relationships

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I’m back in the office today at Cole Harbour Woodside United Church (CHWUC) after a beautiful, challenging, and Spirit-filled week at Regional Meetings in Sackville, NB. As we continue to work our way through 50 ways to connect our church with  the wider community, we turn to thinking about what it means to “Build Authentic Relationships”. 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.

This section of considerations builds on the previous 18 ideas, but here we begin to dig a little deeper and talk about more than just “us” as a congregation and “them” as the community beyond our walls. We begin to seriously consider what it means to think about an “us” as both these entities truly coming together. That’s the word “relationship” by definition – two or more things connecting, coming together in some way. So, let’s think about how we can build those connections in ways that are genuine and true. (The thought from the original article appears in blue, with my commentary underneath as it applies to us in our context at CHWUC).

Step 19. Strive for meaningful engagement with others, not superficial gestures.

If we truly seek to be in relationship with the community outside the walls of our physical structure it requires more of us than being simply familiar with one another. The difference is between being a friend and being an acquaintance. An acquaintance is someone who you recognize and might say “hello” to in the grocery store, for example, but a friend is someone who you would stop and engage in conversation! And why would we engage in conversation with a friend? Because we really care about them beyond the level of basic human respect – we deeply care for their well-being and they care for ours. We are interested in each other’s joys and sorrows and we connect at the level that allows us to be truly empathetic to each other’s needs.

Step 20. Make sure you are reaching out to people for the right reasons. If your motive is simply to get them to come to church, people will see right through to it.

I think this point speaks for itself, but let me reiterate what I stated in another post on this topic: “While new membership may be a wonderful side effect of being good disciples by loving God and loving our neighbour, our only goal ought to be to love unconditionally. Ask yourselves, “If we serve in our community and nobody new comes to church, would we feel we wasted our time?” If so, don’t bother. Return to the drawing board. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200! God doesn’t call you to fill the church pews. God calls you to love and serve others. Period.” I hold firm to this assertion. It is disingenuous to enter into a relationship with our neighbours if our goal is for them to join “us” as opposed to our goal being to simply be in a mutual relationship.

Step 21. Maintain appropriate boundaries, and respect all with whom you engage.

Ah, boundaries! The first thing that we must understand about boundaries are that they are not walls. Boundaries are not there to keep other people out or ourselves in but serve, in this case, to provide and protect our understanding and respect in relationship with one another. If we do not learn each other’s limits we only find out what they are when we trespass against them. Ideally, in healthy community relationships we do the work of learning what is acceptable behavior around communication, connection, space, marketing, professionalism, interpersonal dynamics and more. This takes patience, compromise, and time, but with dedication and respect for one another that transcends the need to be right, healthy boundaries will be established that help all of us navigate the challenging journey of relationships. Healthy boundaries = healthy relationships.

Step 22. Collaborate with others who are also passionate about the community. Don’t reinvent the wheel if you can partner with someone else serving the community.

This stems back to getting to know your community that we discussed a couple of weeks ago. We’ve just discussed that authentic relationships require a lot of work and time – all worth it, but still require a lot of energy, so the best use of our time and energy is to connect to those that we identify as having similar passions and goals in the community that we go. Who else is out there doing the work that we are passionate about too? How can we help them? Do they want our help? Social media is a great place to start asking these questions and see who is out there! Be brave, ask if you can get together and work together. They may not want our help or input, but we will never know until we ask. We might be surprised at the beautiful, unexpected relationships that develop when we take a chance and work with another group!

Stay tuned for next week when we discuss “turning our existing ministries outward”. Until then, get talking to each other about this stuff. If you’ve read this, share it with someone at church and get a conversation going.

Offered in the Peace of Christ,

Rev. Kim Curlett

Minister of Spiritual Care

pwwpchwuc

Listen and Learn

listenI write to you today from the inaugural meeting of Regional Council 15 (Nova Scotia and Bermuda) of the United Church. We are meeting in Sackville, NB with our friends in the Region that includes New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (who have a much longer regional name that I can’t currently remember and at the time of this writing I am not online). It’s an exciting time in the church and I am grateful to be here doing the work of the wider church and getting ready to be ordained here on Sunday.

So, now to the matter at hand. We are working our way through 50 ways to connect our church with community. 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. For more information on what we have been discussing please refer to my previous posts.

Today, we will expand on the first 13 ways that included ideas about embracing an expansive concept of community, how we ought to prepare ourselves spiritually before engaging in the work of connecting church and community, and getting to know the actual community surrounding our church. In the article where these FIVE ideas comes from this section was titled “Listen and Learn”.  As has been our practice. The original article’s point are in blue and it is the words of my reflection on those points that follow.

Step 14. Know that ministries that truly bless a community often arise out of conversations where you listen for the hopes and dreams of people in your community.

That means that we must know the people and be in relationshipwith themnot simply have knowledge that they exist. If we want folks to trust us enough to share those hopes and dreams we must allow ourselves to become a good neighbour and a friend. Currently, many of our congregations are living out the theory that “good fences make good neighbours” without recalling that it is not easy to love our neighbour, as we are commanded to do, through a fence or a wall. I would suggest that it is time to install a swinging door that allows us to go back and forth between each other as we build and nurture new relationships with those groups and individuals in our community.

Step 15. Interview residents of the community. Sit in a park, diner, or coffee house. Ask simply, “What are your challenges, hopes, longings and dreams?”

Also, on Facebook or other social media, but actually ask to talk to real live people. Group surveys are often only filled out by those who are already interested. Surveys are easier because then we don’t actually have to be bold and have conversations with folks that may not be completely interested in talking to us right away. This is NOT something that regularly happens, but it should. I wonder if you can imagine trying this? I challenge you to start this with your friends, family, and neighbours. Asking the question above is an invitation to conversation, and a conversation is an invitation into relationship. Shall we try it and see where it goes.

Step 16. Get to know the major public officials. They are people with tremendous influence. They need to know of your church’s commitment to the community.

This one is big because these are the folks with so much of the decision-making power in your area. Getting to know them might include inviting them to speak to you as the minister, or chair of a committee. Together you might find a way to help the community together. Having a good relationship between public officials and church will help both of you to meet these needs.

Step 17. Involve many people from your church in this work. Hold one another accountable to the tasks of engaging and learning from others.

Yes, yes, and yes! This is not just the work of a small task group. This is not just the work of the minister. This is not just the work of the outreach committee. This is not JUST the work of any of these group and individuals. This is the work of the WHOLE congregation. Each of the groups can help everyone do this work by doing some of the initial research so that they can educate others with both their knowledge and their experience. This work CANNOT be the work of one person and actually be effective.

Step 18. Discern clusters of issues and concerns that arise from these conversations. Ask what issues, suffering, injustices, or brokenness might you address.

Discern, disseminate, interpret, and all of the above is completely necessary to this work. The temptation will be to be reactive when we hear these stories, but we must commit to take the time to pray over the answers we receive to our question of, “What are your challenges, hopes, longings and dreams?” and let the Spirit guide us through a process of discerning where we are called next. In the medical field, we would call this triaging. Instead of sticking a bandage on every sore we see, we are called to take the time to have a conversation with those we seek to help. Like a triage nurse who takes the initial information to help the emergency room address those with the greatest needs first; the health care team that comes to ask those questions again; and those who go and walk to colleagues and then return to the patient about their treatment options – our work ought to be just as collaborative.

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will discuss what it means to “Building Authentic Relationship”…

Offered in the Peace and Love of Christ,

~k

Kim Curlett (Next week I’ll be adding Rev. to that signature – God willing! Please keep me in your prayers on May 26, 2019 at 10 am)

Minister of Spiritual Care

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How can we help?

how-can-we-helpWe have been thinking about 50 ways to connect our church with community. 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. For more information on what we have been discussing please refer to my previous posts.

Last week we considered what it might look like to “Prepare Spiritually” for this work. Today, I want to unpack what it means to “Get to know the community surrounding our church”. The steps recommended in the article appear in blue and my comments appear under each: 

GET TO KNOW THE COMMUNITY SURROUNDING YOUR CHURCH

Step 10. Review demographic data from public, private, and denominational sources, but don’t assume that statistics alone will tell the whole story.

The most recent Joints Needs Assessment Report is a great place to start gathering this information about the community surrounding your church. This work has usually been gathered by folks so that information can be available to potential ministry personel that may be seeking a call. But, like this step suggest, don’t assume that is all the information. It is also really helpful to talk to people in the neighbourhood, which leads us to the next step…

Step 11. Get out in your neighborhood. Walk the streets. Map the area and record your observations. Note how the community is changing.

This would be a terrific exercise to do by a number of different groups in the church. In the United Church we are not door-knockers, but just because we aren’t going door-to-door doesn’t mean we shouldn’t walk around our community and say hello to our neighbours at business and parks etc. I challenge groups within the church to take an evening and go for a walk and/or a drive around while considering the question, “who is our neighbour?” I wonder what you would come up with. The beginning of a plan to connect with the community is actually knowing who they are!

Step 12. Assess community needs and assets. What are the needs of your context? Who are your neighbors, and how can you serve them?

This could be the next step in a comprehensive plan and it involves inviting community groups, neighbours, school reps, etc., into conversation with you. Assessing the community’s needs without their input in the conversation is not only ineffective, it is at the root of colonialism. If the church determines what a community needs without ever talking to the members of that community then they aren’t interested in real relationships with the community, they are interested in authority over it. We must be committed to doing the work of being in relationship. That means changing the approach from, “this is how we are going to help you,” to “how can we help you?” It is a subtle, but profound difference.

Step 13. Be attuned to where God is already at work in your community.

This might be the last step about learning about your community and it is so important. Just because your church is not involved in the community doesn’t mean God isn’t already working in it. God may not have been able to wait for the church to move into action and found other ways and other people to do God’s work. This is the work now – to look for individuals and groups in our community that could use our support and wider connections and resources to make their work of serving the community possible. What would it look like if we looked for ways we could help others rather than looking for others to help us?

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will discuss what it means to “Listen and Learn”… Until then, act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8)

Offered in the Peace and Love of Christ,

~k

Kim Curlett

Minister of Spiritual Care

pwwpchwuc