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10 Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to the Neighborhood

I have a fervent belief that if we want to reach a post-Christian society, we have to be Good News before someone will listen to Good News.

Here are 10 ways you can begin transforming your church into a place where Good News flows from:

  1. If you have a building, offer a public bathroom and shower that’s open to whomever needs it during your office hours.
  2. Ask every attendee to get in the habit of bringing a canned food item (you get the idea) to church every week. Then start a food pantry that’s open a couple days a week for people to drop in.
  3. Buy things for the church from local suppliers. Avoid the big box (probably cheaper) stores for ones that support a local company. Encourage your church attendees to do the same.
  4. Encourage people who go out to lunch after church to be generous with tipping servers and conscious of how long they are staying. You want wait staffs to desire the church crowd, they are avoiding it at all costs now.
  5. Require church staff to live within the area you are trying to reach.
  6. Add a requirement to all board and staff job descriptions that they attend public meetings. (Schools, city planning, city council, county government, etc.)
  7. Ask adults to volunteer at the public schools. (Give staff lots of freedom to volunteer)
  8. Participate in organized community events. Cleaning up, planting flowers, helping with parades, etc.
  9. Make church property open to the public. (Playground equipment, skateboard park, community garden, host local festivals, allow the schools to hold events in the auditorium.) Better yet, turn all of your property into a community center.
  10. Create a culture of saying yes to community involvement instead of no.

These are my ideas. What are yours?

How can your church (and the people who go to it) become Good News to your neighborhood?

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26 Responses to 10 Ways Your Church Can Be Good News to the Neighborhood

  1. Dewaine Cooper April 15, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    To add to #9, turn a room of your building into a community study hall for students.

  2. adam mclane April 15, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    @dwaine- That’s a great tip. Our youth group offers tutoring before youth group each week… almost ALL of the students show up. Plus, it’s a great and easy way for adults to volunteer and be a part of a teenagers life.

  3. Chris April 15, 2010 at 11:40 am #

    This kind of talk always brings up an interesting debate at my church, because statements like #9 are responded to with “But what if some kid gets hurt on our playground and then they sue us, and then our insurance goes up…” I understand that we have to think about these things and be proactive against this kind of eventuality, but I think it too easily crosses the line into that territory where we’re looking out for ourselves more than for others. When you’re generous, someone WILL take advantage of your generosity, but that’s not an excuse not to be generous.

    Anyway, good thoughts – thanks for posting!

  4. Chris April 15, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    @adam – Tutoring is a great thought. We’ve talked about that one before here, but we (myself included) keep forgetting about it. It’s nice to hear that it’s an idea that people really are responding to – especially youth!

  5. Kirk Petersen April 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm #

    Great ideas. One of our former pastors looked at the space on our property which is near the city and took #9 to heart by creating a public disc golf course. Now every nice day in Portland is met with 30-40 twentysomethings walking around with a bag of discs. Creatively serving those who gather is still the ongoing challenge. One pastor networked with local disc golfers and formed a league in the summer that included a free dinner for the 40-60 participants each week hosted by various small group communities from the church.

  6. adam mclane April 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

    @kirk- absolutely love that idea. What a great use of space.

    I feel a conviction about land-use and churches. While it is awesome that churches don’t pay taxes, it would seem reasonable that the community should get something in return for lost tax revenue. In other words, if that building weren’t there that property would likely be something which generated tax revenue for the community… therefore NOT getting tax for the land means “a loss” for the community.

    I hope more churches start to recognize that while they enjoy that benefit there is a cognizant effort to give back to the community and not be a leach.

  7. Chris April 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    @kirk – That’s a great idea. We’ve got a fair amount of unused property, and while it’s not quite large enough for a disc golf course, we’ve talked about turning it into a jogging track or just a nice garden with a path.

    @adam – I saw your most recent tweet and that’s exactly right. I’m reminded of hearing Don Miller at a youth specialties event say “It’s neat and tidy in the graveyard, but it’s messy in the nursery.” Also, having bashed my church (a little) about certain aspects of #9, I should state that it’s been very good about other aspects. We frequently allow our building to be used for homeowner’s association meetings, school plays, community sports team banquets, etc. I’d just like to see us do even more.

  8. Gies April 15, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    We do most of this stuff to some degree or another. We have partnered with the YMCA to use our facility for after-school activities. Lots of meetings are held in our facility. (homeowners, boards, groups, clubs, boy scouts, girl scouts, etc…) The local elementary school does it’s talent show at our church (b/c it doesn’t have a space large enough to hold it) and we have let local groups use our brand new gym. We run YMCA summer camps at our facility for no charge to the Y and have car shows in our parking lot for anyone to show their car off. Now, we are currently working toward building a community “park” b/c the neighborhood on one side of us does not have a park. We also have tutoring for school kids and the elementary school has church folks coming in during school to volunteer in classes.

    Not all we want to do, but moving in a good direction.

  9. Gies April 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    @Chris, If you partner with another organization (boys & girls club, YMCA, etc…) and let them run some of the same programs they will carry the ins costs and the majority of liability. (assuming that you keep your facility in good repair and up to code) Also, we have found that using an outside group instead of doing “My Church’s Pre-teen Day Camp” or “First Church’s basketball league” means a different set of people will come. People who would never come to program run by a church will be more open to a YMCA program run at a church. Then, all you have to do as host facility is find ways to make contact with and serve those participants and their families.

  10. Chris April 15, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    @Gies – thanks for the tips. It’s an especially good point that some people may come to an event that is run by a non-church organization.

    I don’t like dealing with the liability stuff, and I wish that people would, as Adam has pointed out, realize that the call to love and to be generous isn’t only extended to us when it’s safe and convenient. Your suggestions about sharing that liability with other organizations might get the people on board who aren’t ready to love people when it could be costly (to put it bluntly).

  11. Sandie Haskins April 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    I love this way of thinking and sharing life with those in our community! Loved reading all of your ideas. I’m on staff at our church in the area of community and compassion. There are two things we are doing in our city right now. One is serving in our Relay For Life event by helping with various parts of the 24 hour period including a “Songs and Testimonies of HOPE” session. The second way is by really getting behind our cities Youth Center. We have several members who serve weekly and we help to raise money to keep it going so that youth can get tutoring, meals and friendships. I totally agree about getting involved in the local schools as well. My husband is our middle school pastor as well as president of the PTA at one of the middle schools.
    Thanks for posting this! Blessings to you all!

  12. Travis Deans April 16, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    Hey Adam, great ideas! Thanks for this post – now for implementation!

  13. Cathy Rape April 20, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    My reflections on this article in relation to the teachings I see regarding the church in scripture lead me to conclude that, although social benevolence ministry is certainly a noble thing, it is not the MAIN thing a church is called to do. Consider the big picture. As the church has turned more and more toward social outreach strategies, our churches have become filled with people who (as you said) “don’t put an ounce of faith nor a penny of thought into what it means to be a Christian”
    What will transform the church into a “place from which the good news flows”? I would say ONLY the unedited, unaltered, unashamed, preaching of the GOSPEL!!!
    See: http://www.t4g.org/aboutus/
    Audio recordings of the conference available for free download!

  14. adam mclane April 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    @cathy- First and foremost. Welcome to adammclane.com. I thank you for your comment as well as contacting me via email. I do find it interesting that you lifted a quote from a private email, but forget to mention the point of the paragraph.

    What you bring up is what the religious establishment always brings up… “if people would just come and listen to us, we’d tell them something important!” But, like I said in the email I sent you, I can guarantee you that more than 90% of the people in your neighborhood ignore church altogether because you are so worried about preaching “the unedited, unaltered, unashamed Gospel” (as you’ve chosen to define it)

    Did Jesus or the Apostles preach exclusively to religious people in the Temple? Not in my Bible.

    What am I missing?

  15. Brit Windel April 20, 2010 at 10:28 pm #

    Love it Adam, Very challenged and somethings we were even talking about today in staff about how the ‘stewardship’ of our space also reflects the generosity of our hearts. If we are stingy and are not thinking and being proactive in our backyard how can we expect any of the ‘neighbor kids’ to want to come in our yard to play…which leads me to Cathy’s comment

    @Cathy, I don’t disagree with you that some churches it seems have lost focus in a more favorable social outreach not ‘Soul-cial outreach’ (No one take this…its mine). But there is a fine line and one i argue with lots of churches that we are called into action into our society to be reaching out in love. How can we expect people to come and hear the truth if we aren’t out there in their world hearing, smelling, tasting, buying, living in the lies that they struggle with. Its impersonal and detached.

    Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.~ John 13.35

    When you feed the poor and needy you have done it to me~Matthew 25.34-45

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.~ James 1.27

    Jesus was ALL ABOUT OUTREACH… he wasn’t accepted in church (synagogue) because of his outreach techniques. “yeah lets feed all these people with the NOTHING WE HAVE! But Jesus we only have enough to keep our lights on today…”

    Anyways great stuff, i need to head to bed, i have a root canal surgery tomorrow from a local dentist :-D. He goes to our church and still charging this youth and family pastor an arm and a leg knowing i have no health care and im’ getting married in August… love my dear brother :-)

  16. Cathy Rape April 21, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    Adam and Brit,

    Thank you dear brothers for your kind replies to me. I appreciate that you responded in christian love to what must have felt confrontational.

    I’d like to apologize to you Adam for quoting you out of context. I came across your article on Facebook. It (and the additional quote in isolation) were posted there in the context of a discussion thread started by a non-Christian. The thread drifted toward the conclusion that the world doesn’t need the Christian church for such simple acts of kindness, and that any person or business can and should do the same. Many Do! One individual hailed the arrival of a post-christian society where the church was irrelevant. It was all very sad.

    I don’t feel at liberty to “teach” the staff members of another church. I can only EARNESTLY IMPLORE you to listen to the messages given at the T4G conference. I was once a founding member of a “Willow Creek model” church and embraced the “seeker sensitive” movement, so I know where you stand, and I know you have a compassionate heart.

    I stand in wholehearted agreement with you that Christians should be the most charitable people on earth and should reach out to the community. As a matter of fact, I am going with a group from our church Friday to a local college to do just that. However, kindness and charity are the “fruit” and not the “root”. Unless the whole council of the word of God is preached INSIDE the church, there will be no root and the fruit will rot.

  17. Chris April 21, 2010 at 7:21 am #

    If y’all will excuse me for being a buttinsky, this is exactly what we talked about last Sunday at my church. Sin has had many effects on many levels. On an individual level, we are broken, prideful, selfish, we follow and believe in lies, etc. On a societal level, we have injustice, hunger, poverty, and slavery. The Gospel addresses sin, and all of its effects on all levels – the individual level (sanctification) and the societal level. As the Kingdom of God comes to us, we are changed inwardly, and we are used by God to change the things around us, because sin and its effects, on any level, have no place in the Kingdom of God.

    The people on Facebook are of course missing the most important issue. Poverty and injustice are only symptoms of the foundational problem, and addressing the symptoms won’t fix the illness, which can only be addressed by Christ, the cross, and the empty tomb. We Christians also have to avoid the tendency to take up social issues but divorce them from Christ. “Social Gospel” without the Truth of Christ isn’t the gospel.

  18. adam mclane April 21, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    Just like some of what I’m reading is “neo-fundamentalism,” what I am suggesting is really not a “neo-social Gospel.” In fact, most of what I’ve suggested in the list are things that the church has traditionally done. It’s only in the last years we’ve started worrying more about liability and locking doors than we have about loving our neighbors. (Which, by my count is 1 of the 2 more important things Jesus commanded.)

  19. Cathy Rape April 21, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Respectfully and in love:

    Adam: “I have a fervent belief that if we want to reach a post-Christian society, we have to be Good News before someone will listen to Good News.”
    Q: Why would someone want to listen to good news (redemption) unless they are convinced of the bad news (their lostness)? A “warm shower” may be good news if you are dirty and your water has been turned off, but it is not the good news of the gospel.

    Adam: “Here are 10 ways you can begin transforming your church into a place where Good News flows from:”
    Q: A church cannot be “transformed” by works. You are suggesting a system of works. If by Good News you mean salvation by grace, it must be first taught in order to flow from the church.

  20. Steven Dale September 21, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    One thing we found works is to pick up litter in your neighbourhood. Organise a ‘litter pick’ day and you will find yourselves getting into interesting conversations. Another one is to hold a cafe in the church and have newspapers and free coffee & cakes available. Put on a range of activities for all ages and get your members to just sit and chat and generally be friendly.

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