God’s mission travels in one vehicle: the church. In the same way that different kinds of vehicles travel our roadways, many different churches share the good news message. No congregation has a corner on the Kingdom, and every Bible-believing church has the potential to be an asset in the Kingdom of God.
The neighborhood will have one of three perspectives on your church: negative, neutral, or positive.
- Negative: The neighborhood knows who you are and would rather you not be there.
- Neutral: The neighborhood does not know you or has no opinion about you.
- Positive: The neighborhood knows who you are and is grateful to have you in the community.
Some churches get a lot of negative attention. I’m not talking so much about scandals as putting out a negative message. For example, I heard of one church that circulated invite cards that stated, “We’re probably not the church for you!” and included a list of things they were against. The entire neighborhood now knows this church but for all the wrong reasons.
Other churches have a neutral impact. People drive by the campus. If they notice the building, they know nothing about the church. In our experience doing research and consultations all over North America, we believe most churches fall into this category. We often interview people from the community and ask about specific churches. A common theme emerges.
- “I have no idea.”
- “I don’t know the church.”
- “Never heard of it.”
Sometimes these churches are right across the street. In one case, we pointed at the campus. The interviewee responded, “Oh, wow. I never noticed that was a church.”
Churches should seek a positive reputation by building rapport with the surrounding neighborhood. But how? Consider these eight ideas.
Inviting neighbors to Sunday lunch. Imagine a church where half of the people regularly invited their neighbors to worship and offered to have lunch with them afterward. Most everyone in the community would know about the church. And likely, they would have a positive perspective on the congregation.
Coaching and sponsoring local sports leagues. My church, West Bradenton, sponsors teams in the local sports leagues when the coach is a member. We consider these teams as ministries in the community, and our coaches as representatives of the good news.
Joining a neighborhood civic organization. Most communities have a variety of nonprofits other than churches. Pastors and church leaders can help build a positive reputation by being contributing members of these organizations.
Having Christmas Eve services. You will have more guests from the neighborhood on Christmas Eve than any other single worship experience. Christmas Eve is the most likely time an unchurched person will walk into your worship space. It’s a huge opportunity. I fear some churches go through the motions since Christmas Eve is the peak of the busy season, and volunteers are short in supply.
Supporting foster families. Fostering is one of the most overlooked ways to get your church to solve community problems. I often hear from churches, “How can we connect to the community? We don’t know where to start.” Take a foster child into your home, and you are immediately connected to some of the most challenging issues in your community.
Starting a service in another language. We recently began a Chinese service at our church. How? A group was looking for space, and no other church was willing to offer part of their campus for free. We are now connected to a growing part of the neighborhood that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Opening your church facility to other non-profit organizations. Partnering with a local Christian preschool was one of our best campus decisions. Our church is alive Monday through Friday with children and their families. We also open our sanctuary to events for other nonprofits.
Beginning an ongoing prayer walking emphasis. Get your people walking the neighborhood and praying. Inevitably, the Holy Spirit will provide opportunities for gospel conversations. One of the best reputation builders for a church is to pray for people in the community and let them know.
You can’t reach your community unless you know your community. Church Answers recently updated our popular Know Your Community report with all new data. We’ve also expanded several new demographics and psychographics. Click here to learn more about this report and order one.
Posted on July 19, 2023
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
More from Sam