God is not done with our churches.
His activity and his work remain powerful and pervasive.
Let me share with you four examples of churches that have been used by God when they made a specific and powerful commitment: They wanted to serve and minister to their communities more effectively.
1. Single moms and the senior adult church. This particular church consisted of all senior adults, no young people at all. They knew they needed to reach young people, but they did not know where to begin. We suggested that they learn what the needs of their community are, so they agreed to order our report, Know Your Community. The elderly members of the church were shocked to find out the number of single moms in their community. They found ways to reach and mentor many of these young mothers. Eventually, the moms started coming to the church. And, of course, their kids came as well. The church is now thriving with kids and young adults.
2. Changing presuppositions about what the community really looks like. Look at these words from a pastor in Virginia: “We thought we had an older, blue-collar type demographic, but things have rapidly changed over the last decade. Our community is now made up of mostly young, wealthy professionals. We are re-emphasizing children’s ministry with staff and budget to prepare to minister to many new young professionals that are starting families. We also discovered that those in our community are highly interested in health and fitness. We are now brainstorming youth and young adult outreach efforts based on these interests.”
3. Goodbye, gym. Hello, pickleball. The church in Florida was built when Boomers were in their 30s and early 40s. One major building program included the perfunctory gym since the Boomers wanted a gym. Those Boomers are now in their 60s and 70s. The entire community has transitioned older as well. This church had the foresight to change the gym to inside pickleball courts, primarily for senior adults. They got the word out and welcomed the community to the new courts. It has proven a huge success. Four senior adults became followers of Christ within three months of the new endeavor. Undoubtedly, God will bless this church with even more opportunities.
4. The Thursday night experiment. The church in Arizona was surprised to discover that one-third of the working adults in their community had to work on Sundays. Instead of doing church the way they’ve always done it, the congregation decided to experiment and try a Thursday evening service. It is a simple service, family-style (no childcare), with only one person leading worship with an acoustic guitar. The service lasts 45 minutes. After three months, the Thursday night service has an average attendance of 55, up from the first month’s average of 27. Not only is the service attracting those who work on Sundays, but it has also become an alternative time to attend when someone is going out of town for the weekend or for a long holiday weekend. A number of members in the church elect to attend the service as well when they plan to be out of town for the weekend.
These are four of many examples of churches looking for new ways to reach and minister to people in Christ’s name by getting to know their communities better.
Do you have a similar story? We would love to hear about it.
Posted on December 20, 2021
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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This is reflective of the things educators have been saying for years, the church of my childhood – build it and they will come – is or has not functioned as a model for success. Most of the local churches in our community that are thriving are ones built with intentionality and with vision for location. It’s not enough to build a church in a community, rather the church needs to (1) meet a need in the community and (2) be accessible and approachable for their community.
Lots of “if onlys” can be opined but the church that thrives, or worse – simply survives, is the one that figures out how to adapt a centuries old (in my case) physical plant to meet the needs of a dramatically changed community. Our community has gone from an agrarian community with a lot of farms and farmers, to a bedroom community where most people work somewhere else.
Good points, Les.