Moving to a new church district can be a challenge and exciting at the same time. There is so much to learn and experience. When you are young, you think of all the things that need to change right away. When you are older and wiser in ministry, you realize change comes in time and with diligent work. Your church will take some time to learn and they also have to build trust in you. One bad meeting or interaction can put a wedge between you and the church or bring you into a good cohesive relationship.
One way I have found helps to build your church is to actually build your community. There are several ways to connect with your neighborhood and I would love to share them with you.
Attitude is key! Have the attitude of kindness and positivity. Whomever comes to your congregation or whomever you meet with in a meeting, it is a great thing to put on your best attitude. One person told me he knew my attitude from the first few words of our interaction. Turns out he is a CEO of a major start-up business and from there we have built a solid relationship. People will attend your church based on how good you treated them in the beginning. It doesn’t matter a person’s religion or non-religious beliefs, everyone responds to love and respect!
Know who your leaders and Influencers are!
Getting to know who’s who comes with time and networking. You want to know who has the pulse of your community and who can connect you with more influencers. Once you accomplish that you will find that it is easier to navigate through your demographics. Google is great for researching your vicinity, however, so is connecting with your neighbors.
Note: It is best to build a relationship with neighbors before taking up all of their parking spaces or asking them to turn down their noise on Sabbath. Your community leaders are non-profit, politicians, police and fire department, and people who know how to get things done. I’ve learned how to build a great relationship with law enforcement. They have even done Active Shooter Training in our churches. Your church can also become a center for the community to hold meetings, rally or even attending your worship services. You can’t go wrong connecting with leaders in your community.
Serve Your Community
There are several ways to serve. My church has held breakfast, trainings, and even gone to the shelters to feed the homeless. In my church in Connecticut we are able to suspend service once a month to go serve our local shelter. It has been a great benefit to our congregations. In my other church in Providence, RI we created care packages to give out to the homeless on the streets. In these ziplock packages we placed deodorant, soap, wash cloth, shampoo, conditioner, water, snacks, a book (Steps to Christ), and socks. Our church label was also pasted on the bag to give a reference point.
Upon giving out these packages we were able to pray for them and through that we listened to their stories. One young lady was troubled because social services had taken her children away. When I asked if I could pray she was willing, I then asked her name, but she could not stand still and think about her circumstance, she said “I can’t” and walked away. She is in my prayers for the pain she is suffering and I don’t care what caused the situation, I am there to pray.
Pray For Your Community
Since ministering in Brooklyn, NY, I have experience praying for the streets on the streets. With so much violence that occurs day to day our communities need someone praying for those who can’t pray for themselves. I worked with the 67th Precinct Clergy Council (The God Squad) with Pastor Gil Monrose of the Mt. Zion Seventh Day Church of God. We prayed on the streets during riots, vigils and funerals. Imagine the prayers took effect to the point that in New York City it was reported NO MURDERS for one weekend! That is God! We can never discount what consistent prayer can do for your community.
Today I pray with a group sponsored by Shaundel Bruney-Speaks (a mother who lost her son to violence) called Corporate Prayer Group. We have prayer services every first Monday of the month and it has been effective in spite some of our losses. Simply holding prayer services during the week outside of Sabbath and Wednesday night can also be effective.
There may be other ideas like giving your neighbors fruit (in season), flowers, painting their house, raking up leaves, cutting lawn, breakfast for students in the community before school, clouting drive, or giving out shoes like Andre McDonnell from It’s From The Sole! Each and and every church can make a difference!
Pastor Philip McGuire Wesley II is the pastor of Emmanuel SDA Church, Providence, Rhode Island and Mt. Olive SDA Church, New London, Connecticut. He is the President/CEO of McGuire Entertainment Group. Follow him @pastorphil2