When a congregation loses connection with its context, it becomes isolated from the greater community. It may still continue to serve its members with great worship, education and fellowship – but by losing connection with those in the community outside its doors it loses an opportunity to BE the church where it is planted.
An easy way to check your context is to look your demographics. The Presbytery I serve has a subscription for MissionInsite. (Holler if you want more information.) It is a helpful tool, allowing you to see who lives in your neighborhood.
In order for that tool to be truly effective, however, it requires you to have your mother walk your dog.
Let me explain. In one of my congregations, our Session had done the demographic study and we were pretty clear about who we were being called to serve. We began to brainstorm ways our wee church might address some pretty profound needs. After our brainstorming sessions, we’d feel hopeful… and then folks would get in their cars and drive home. This went on for months. We got really good at it!
Meanwhile… my folks came to visit, and Mom delighted in walking our family dog. I’d normally let the dog out in the yard… but Mom? Mom walked that pup all around the neighborhood. As she walked McGiffert, strangers would stop her to say hello and ask about the dog. Mom would invariably say that the dog belonged to the pastor of the Presbyterian church…. and more often than not, they would respond with surprise that they had no idea our congregation existed. She offered to pray for them – and to ask the church to pray for them. They shared their needs and concerns and life stories while McGiffert visited the closest tree.
Demographics on paper are helpful but only if they lead you to hear the stories those numbers represent.
How well do you know your church’s context?
When is the last time you walked around the neighborhood and talked with those who live near you?
Do you know their deepest needs?
Do they know your congregation cares about them?
(Modified from a recent Mission Impact post)