By Jason Daye
It should go without saying that if we really want to be effective in building bridges into our community and developing relationships with people, then we really need to have a good understanding of our community. We need to understand where we are in the midst of the community and who is living around us. What is their background? What are their concerns? What is the DNA of the neighborhoods where God has called us to serve? Every single church is in a unique context, so we need to know what the community is around us. If we aren’t understanding our community, then we don’t want to rush out and do a bunch of outreach. Many pastors and churches get tripped up on this. Outreach is fun and exciting, but don’t rush ahead just yet. Slow down and really understand the people God has called us to. Here are five ways to get to know your community better.
1. Talk to local school principals, counselors, and teachers.
Introduce yourself to the school staff and look for opportunities to serve the school. Ask a lot of questions to learn more about the community. Take those learnings back to your church and board to help educate them about the community as well.
2. Interview people in the neighborhood.
Getting feedback from the people in the neighborhood is one of the best ways to get to know what the average person in the community is thinking or feeling. Tell people in the community who you are and where you are from. Ask them to tell you about struggles and needs they see in the community. Let them know you care about the community and want to get to know more about it.
3. Take time to talk to other pastors and ministry leaders in the community.
Oftentimes, this can be difficult as people feel competition or mistrust. But don’t let that be you. Meet the other pastors and let them know you aren’t there to be in competition, but to lock arms with them to reach more people for Jesus Christ. Ask them what they have learned from being in the community. Build a relationship with them.
4. Do a demographic study.
Look at marital and family status, income levels, education levels, ethnic backgrounds, and crime rates. If the studies allow, learn about people’s hobbies, interests, and level of volunteer engagement.
5. Talk to community leaders.
The mayor and other leaders can inform you about the community and their greatest needs. Take that information back to your church and consider how you can serve and build bridges in the community to meet those needs.
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