Getting your church on board...
by Richard Hardy
One of the hardest groups of people to convince can be the rest of your church. Here are some suggestions of how to inspire those around you to catch your vision for community engagement.
Paint the big picture
You may have a vision for transforming your community through meeting the needs of families – and you can see how this will have a huge impact on the life of your church, not just in terms of church growth.
But it’s possible people in your church just simply cannot see why they should do something. You may need to spell out the benefits of engaging with your community to your church.
Not everyone responds to ‘spiritual’ reasons, for example, a call to be ‘salt and light’. But most people would agree that putting the church back into the centre of the community, beginning conversations which will often go beyond life’s challenges to the deeper issues of faith and hope, and making the local area safer and nicer to live in, are all immense benefits.
Choosing to address family issues gives your church avenues into the lives of the people around you. It gives you opportunities to help people and demonstrate God’s love to them. For many people it will be the first time they have had any interaction with the church.
Bottom line: You might need to ‘sell’ the idea; in fact, be prepared to.
Big tip: When you’re painting ‘the big picture’ of how your church is going to transform your community, be aware of the next point – ‘emphasise the do-able’.
Emphasise the do-able
Churches can easily feel overwhelmed when faced with the sheer scale of the challenge to engage. It can feel like there is too much for a church to do, especially a small church, and that can leave people feeling powerless, discouraged and unwilling to take part.
A solution is to break down any large task into ‘do-able’ chunks. While it’s important to keep your end aim (the big picture) in mind, it’s far easier to achieve parts of your vision. So, for example, your overall aim may be to prevent family breakdown in your community. But, your first aim may be to secure premises as a base for your project. That feels more do-able. And you can build on the feeling of achievement to encourage your team as you begin on the next phase of your project.
Bottom line: If it feels like you can’t do it, pick a bit of it you can do.
Big tip: You aren’t called to do everything or even the same thing as other churches in your area. Ask God for guidance on what your church is being called to do.
One of the big hindrances to any church-based project is unrealistic expectations. Big visions can give people a sense of easily-attainable immediate transformations. And sometimes they happen - but more often they don’t.
To keep expectations realistic, it can be helpful to draw in the expertise of others. If you have someone in your church with project-planning experience, it’s worth asking them to act as advisors. They will identify potential stumbling-blocks before you trip over them.
Similarly, people with accounting skills, media experience and other specialist knowledge can help a project run smoothly. Consider drawing in experienced people from outside the church to help, such as non-attending spouses, neighbours, or local community workers.
Bottom line: This website aims to offer plenty of material to help you plan your community project. And remember to ask other people in your church to add their expertise in different fields, eg publicity.
Big tip: To avoid people feeling overburdened if they’re already active in church life, arrange for extra help to support them in their current roles before they take on new challenges.
Throughout the Old Testament when God did something amazing, the people of Israel responded with a celebration. Very often we forget to follow their example.
So take the time to celebrate success. Encourage regular feedback to the church about progress that has been made. Highlight stories in your newsletter or church magazine. Ask people to share their stories. Consider having a regular slot in your Sunday services to highlight the difference you are making in people’s lives.
And when you celebrate success, it will give you the impetus to carry on, and hopefully encourage even more members of your church to join you in your work.
Bottom line: Take the time to thank God for his faithfulness!
Big tip: Schedule in regular ‘reporting’ times in your Sunday services.