Seven Ways to Love Your Community

By Sam Rainer

Church leaders should love their churches where they are now, not where they wish their congregations could be in the future. That’s a given, or at least should be. But what about the community? Church leaders should love their communities as much as their churches. Granted, some churches are easier to love than others, and some communities are easier to love than others. A calling to a place, however, requires a love for that place.

One of the pitfalls of church leadership involves the call to a new place—a location in which the new minister has little knowledge. Some of us grow up living in a number of different places. My family moved every three years or so when I was a child, and I’ve pastored from Florida to Indiana. But even if you have experienced several transitions, a new place of ministry can prompt infatuation or disdain with the community.

Infatuation occurs when you feel like the new location is more exotic: big city, rural community, beachside, in the mountains—whatever excites you more than your current location. But infatuation quickly fades as you settle into a routine. Disdain occurs when you feel like the new community does not provide what your previous community offered. And disdain can stick with you. Whether you’re infatuated or disappointed with the location of your ministry, you must learn to love your new community in the same way you learn to love a new congregation. Love for a congregation mismatched with disdain for a community will cause you to retreat in an unhealthy church bubble. Either you will lead your congregation inward, or they will (rightly) question your bitterness and lack of outward focus.

What are some ways church leaders can learn to love their communities?

  1. Don’t go home. If you’re jumping at every opportunity or fabricating lame excuses, to get back home, then your heart is clearly not in the community. God calls church leaders to minister in a place. If you’re looking for any chance to leave that place, then you’re not being a good gospel ambassador.
  2. Join the fun. Every community has unique ways (or occasions) it celebrates. Jump in and contribute to the celebration. Only the most hardened of curmudgeons can hang on to bitterness when everyone around them is having fun.
  3. Live with the people. Don’t move to the outskirts, away from the people. Live in the heart of your community. Your home is not a retreat from ministry; it is a crucial tool in ministry.
  4. Stop complaining. It’s difficult to grow a church when you’re gaining a reputation as the town killjoy. 
  5. Stay active. Be on the go in your community. Sedentariness exacerbates loneliness, frustration, displeasure.
  6. Join a civic organization. Be a leader beyond your church. When the community (in addition to your church) is looking to you for leadership, then you are obligated to create a positive outlook for everyone.
  7. Try something new on a regular basis. Break the routine. Go to different restaurants. Travel different roads. Attend a new festival. Hang out with a different crowd. It’s difficult to harbor negativity when you’re excited about trying something new.

What do you love about your community? How have you learned to love the place where God called you? 

Posted on November 13, 2019

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.
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  • Well…we’d have to love our congregation, OR love our community, because neither loves us nor each other. It’s amazing. We’ve begun with loving the congregation as best we can. They are all from rural areas, eschewing rural churches to attend ours, smack in the middle of the alien/drug culture. These grannies don’t really like unwed pregnancy much and we’d really have to have a tri-lingual service to reach out very far, and with the weakness that comes from past poor teaching, our congregation just is not ready for that.
    However, we have begun jail ministry on our own time, and have found that most of these dear souls are from our community.
    We also secretly hop over to the very nearby Catholic church whenever they are having an event in the streets. They ply us with tacos and enchiladas and we actually know some Spanish and converse with them a bit.
    Results: They have stopped running their ice cream truck past our church while we are still in session, haha. One of the jail inmates will finish his sentence, soon, and, Lord willing, will begin holding nighttime services in our building. Our people are growing stronger in the Lord, prayers are being answered…it’s been nine years, but it has gone upward. <3

  • David Bell says on

    Volunteer at the local schools.
    Teachers can always use a helping hand or
    you can tutor some students.
    Its amazing the interaction you can have just by
    going to school with a bucket of tools offering
    to fix things for teachers.

  • I wish more Pastors would get a hold of these realities!! As a DOM I did my best to set an example in all of these areas.

  • Good words, Sam. Thanks for the wisdom.
    What are some tangible ways pastors and the congregations they serve love their communities with Jesus’ love?
    #6 on your list is great. I’m interested in what other ideas are out there to put skin on this concept.

    • As the saying goes, the opportunities are endless. My wife and I moved from a university town to a small county seat, and we’re busier now than we ever were before.

      Our community just started a new Chamber of Commerce. I participated in the startup meetings and joined as an individual member. Our church became the first church in town to join the new Chamber.

      I’d bet the local Scouting organizations could use volunteers.

      Our local high school just hired a new band director. I’m going to join the band boosters and try to help with fundraising.

      My wife and I also participate in the trivia contests at the coffee shop (yes, we have only one) downtown.

      Ask your deacons if they’re in organizations and then ask how to join them.

  • I agree totally. My wife and I have made it our goal to be involved in the community. First, through school/sports events because of our children. Then, when they graduated, joining other activities. We have had a great time for the past 22 years here, even though this is not where we will eventually retire.

  • “…sedentariness exacerbates…”

    Bro, I felt smarter just reading that! Haha!

  • Love for my city has kept me going even when the church has struggled at times during my 15 years.

  • All of these are very good. Thanks Thom!

  • According to a Barna Group study only 2% of Protestant churches have over 1,000 in attendance. 60% of Protestant churches have less than 100 adults in attendance. I think your observations are well stated and demonstrate why the “Mega-Church” cannot withstand the test of time.

    Personal relationships matter. Empowering members through active participation works best when teams (small groups) do a few things with great impact. Growth sometimes leads to too much! I believe you are dead on with the idea of ‘loving our community.’