To love God and to love others are two very straightforward commands, the question is, what are practical ways we can carry out that instruction in the every day life of our church community? First of all, let’s uncover the basis for all practical effort in the light of scripture: We are taught to love others the way Jesus did (John 13:34), to look at another’s interest as more important than our own (Philippians 2:3-4), to love even those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-38), to put our faith to work with applied forms of giving and serving (James 2:14-17); we are taught it is impossible to love God and hate our neighbor (1 John 4:19-21). And who knows? By getting your congregation out into the community, you could be opening up doors to bring new people to your church. Let me provide 10 practical ways the church can serve its community.
Those of us who have children know that parenting is no easy task and without the benefit of a strong family upbringing, the support of family and friends, and voice of sweet assurance that everything is going to be alright, it is difficult to proceed with confidence. The problem is we live in a broken world and for many this built-in support structure is broken too. There are far too many parents out there just winging it because there is no one readily available to answer questions, provide encouragement, help resolve family issues and work out challenging circumstances. Hosting a parenting course and opening it up to the community provides a way for the parents to come together and learn as well as become a part of a community of moms and dads with the same desire to build healthy homes. It is an opportunity to present God’s mercy and grace as the means of restoration and healing, and the means for developing confidence and strength.
The battles against addiction are often times fierce and cannot be won alone. The power behind the truth of God’s Word and the help and support of people who understand is absolutely essential. There are many Christ-centered programs designed to address the hurts and struggles associated with different types of addictions; programs that present the principles of God’s truth and offer the freedom and hope of a new beginning.
Setting up a food pantry in your church will require qualified personnel, an extensive team of volunteers, and a steady stream of financial support; but whatever your budget, search for programs in your area that already exist or partner with other church bodies to and see how you can fill in any gaps. There are a many great resources available that detail for you the considerations you will need to make in order to establish a successful community food pantry.
Yard care for the elderly
Here is a great ministry idea for the youth. Doing yard work or shoveling snow is an act of kindness that not only provides a much needed service but also an opportunity to be a friend to someone who might otherwise live a solitary existence. The surest way to open up doors to minister to someone’s soul is to first meet their practical needs.
Families of prisoners
Whether you partner with existing prison ministries or start your own, there are many avenues you can take to satisfy this special need. Your prison ministry can help families stay connected by providing transportation for prison visits, special events like movie nights for the single caregiver, and initiating small groups for bible training and general support. There are also pen pal and even prison evangelism opportunities.
When the town of Ferguson, Missouri was knocked upside-down with demonstration and looters, churches joined in to clean up the mess and bring mercy to the angry, confused and hurting community. That’s what the true body of Christ should look like, these are the kinds of things we as believing communities should be ready to do in time of crisis. A designated ministry in the church could essentially aid in continual service, but there are also spur of the moment opportunities where we should rally the troops and be ready and willing to serve.
Walking back from a fourth of July parade, my family and I came upon a Calvary Chapel church hosting a BBQ for the community. It was free, no strings attached. Just friendly bible-believing peeps inviting passers-by to join in on a community celebration. What a great way to meet new friends and communicate the love of Jesus with the neighbors. Kudos Calvary Chapel of Coronado!
Let’s face it, sports bring people together like almost nothing else. So, how about a little healthy competition? Or better yet put together a softball or basketball team, pulling players from the community. Another sports ministry idea is to enlist the athletes in your church to spearhead training programs for children and youth; raise team leaders to put together adult teams for scrimmage; or call out fitness instructors to offer aerobics, Pilates, and the like, at a nominal fee open to the community.
Gift baskets to firefighters and emergency relief personnel
How about serving lunch or dinner to your local firefighters on a holiday that they are on duty and away from their families? Or perhaps give a gift basket full of meats and cheeses, or home-baked goods – just to show appreciation. Here in Southern California where wildfires are a constant concern and require a great deal from these heroes to contain; bottles of water, Gatorade and quick pick-me-up snacks go along way during these difficult seasons.
Everyone needs their car washed at some point so chances are you will get some takers. Here is the perfect opportunity to cheer up members of your community with a smile, leave them with a clean car and extend an invitation to come to your church.
This list contains just a few examples of how the church can be active, but there are a slew of other ways you can serve your community. Ask God to give you desire, creativity and vision. Pool together your church’s gifts, talents and resources to come up with outreach ideas. You may be surprised how those skilled in various areas are willing to take the lead in practical ministry using the gifts God has generously given them.
Kristi Winkler is a contributing writer for Sharefaith, a veteran eLearning developer, writer/editor, and business software analyst. Her writing gives a voice to the ministry experts she consults with and interviews.
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