“Get involved in your community!” It’s a statement you see everywhere. Whether it’s a walk for diabetes, running for county council, or a local blood drive, getting involved in the community is an appeal that Christians can and should respond to. Here are ten ways your church can get involved in your community.
But before the list, there is a necessary explanation. What’s the basis for community involvement, anyway? It’s not just for good PR. It ought to be for the gospel. Christians, because they’ve been redeemed through the blood of Christ, are not citizens of the world’s system. But we are in the world. We are salt and light; we are ambassadors for Christ. Getting involved in the community is about reaching our community with this good news, using means that are available and legitimate. There are, of course, dangers in community involvement. The church can be so distracted by community efforts, worthy though they be, that the church loses focus of the most important thing–the gospel. For pastors to join hands with false teachers, even in the name of a worthy cause, is to confuse the gospel, not promote it. The antidote to these dangers is to get involved with a gospel focus. There is a goal–the goal of the gospel. Living the gospel. Proclaiming the gospel. Advancing the gospel.
Christians don’t get involved in the community just for the sake of getting involved. That would be pointless. Churches don’t get involved in the community merely to provide something for church members to do, or to give volunteers a way to feel better about themselves. Churches and Christians get involved in the community to better represent Jesus, and to make His name known.
- Help the homeless. Are there homeless people in your community? Find out. Find out if there is a rescue mission where your people can volunteer. If a need exists, you can sponsor a weekly meal for homeless people and provide a Christian concert or gospel message for those homeless people who attend the meal.
- Women’s Shelter. Many communities have numbers of women who are either neglected, abused, exploited, or simply in need of help. It could be a poverty-stricken single mother. A rape victim. A prostitute. A teen mother without support. Whatever the case, these women need help. Your church can get involved by starting a women’s shelter, getting involved in existing efforts to help, and by church ladies volunteering their time and attention to these needs.
- Community Clean-up. One way to help out in your surrounding community is to clean up the mess. This may be as simple as picking up trash along the side of community roads. In the fall, there are plenty of leaves to rake. You will be amazed at the gratitude and joy you can give homeowners in your community, just by raking a front yard. Shoveling snow in the winter is another great idea. Be armed with flyers, gospel tracts, and big smiles, then go clean up the community.
- Car Wash. Car washes are a pretty common event, but Totally-Freer-No-Donations-Accepted Car Washes are not so common. Host one in your community! Through some inexpensive advertising, a handful of happy teens, some buckets, a few hoses, and sponges for all, you can make a literal splash in your neighborhood. Make sure that your people are representing the church well by dressing modestly, cleaning carefully, and–again–not accepting a dime.
- Host a Conference, Meeting, or Special Event. Everyone expects a church to have a revival meeting every so often. But people may not expect a church to host a free Community Financial Seminar, a Family Life Hour, or a Successful Marriage Conference. Sharefaith has great resources for you to use in any of these topics. By providing a free-of-charge event to people in your community on topics that are relevant, interesting, and engaging, you can make contact with people who may not otherwise attend church, and give them the life-changing gospel.
- Community Cookout. Use the church property as a place to host a community event that everyone will love–one that has food. Whether you’re able to fund the food yourself, or whether you host a bring-your-own-dish event, this is a great way to get to know people in the community and enjoy time together.
- Fun for Kids. One great community event is one that is for kids. It doesn’t have to be VBS, but may just be a one-day event to get people together and have fun with the kids. After all, where there are kids, there are also adults! Rent some inflatable toys, host a giveaway (like an iPod or iPad for the adults), provide free drinks and snacks, and let the fun begin.
- Nursing home help. If you have assisted living centers near your church, this is a perfect opportunity to help out. Many assisted living homes will welcome church groups and young people. Many assisted living home residents love hearing people sing, play their instruments, and just talk to them.
- Provide free practical help. Another way churches can engage people in their community is by volunteering their talents and abilities to help others. Assemble a team of volunteers in your church who can help community members with projects. Volunteers may include an electrician, an accountant, a tax preparation specialist, a plumber, a carpenter, a mechanic, a doctor, a personal trainer, a dentist, a coach, or babysitters. Offer free services for people in your community, and give your people a chance to get involved while exemplifying Christlike personal testimonies and sharing the light of the gospel.
- Have a sports team. Sports provide Christians an opportunity to either shine, or to really blow it. Somehow, sporting have the uncanny ability to prompt fleshly reactions. If you have a trusted team of people who are interested in sports, start a community league.
Whatever you choose to do as a church, keep the gospel at the center. Yes, you’ll have fun. Yes, you’ll get to know people in your community. Yes, you’ll find that it is a lot of work to organize and oversee these events. Yes, you’ll probably gain more respect in the community. But the real reason is to glorify God by reaching people with the gospel. Keep that the focus.