The longer we are in church the greater the risk that we will look inwards and become isolated from the wider community. This can happen to individuals but is more likely to happen to us as a community. The people who are not yet Christians may not easily encounter Christians as a group or experience Christian community. Particularly if we have an Attractional model of Growth.
There are steps we can take to make sure we are outward looking and that we can encounter and be encountered by people who are not yet Christians in positive ways.
Events in our Buildings
Most churches will already be familiar with inviting the local community into their buildings. Festival services, Christmas fairs, coffee mornings etc. The key to making this part of our missional outreach is understanding the opportunities to get to know people. We can do this in two ways, by actively welcoming people to ongoing events and by running events specifically to get to know people.
Active welcome is about taking the initiative, hospitality, learning names, being clear about what’s happening. Extra events are about building regular things in the diary with a more social feel, maybe once a month and inviting and re-inviting the people we know. These two things build our relational fringe, regular people who know us and who we know.
Going into the community
The culture we live in now in the 21st Century brings less people to our church doors less often. Yet many people outside of church share an interest in spirituality, prayer, ethics, caring for our environment, social justice etc. One positive thing we can do missionally, is to engage with our friends and neighbours in activities outside of church life in a meaningful and intentional way. Perhaps joining in with local conservation groups, neighbourhood watch, amateur dramatics, community choirs or just engendering a sense of community at the school gate. We can launch these activities ourselves or join in with what’s happening. So many people don’t know their neighbours that a street social group can be a great start. Do these things in little teams and do them with the intention of building relationships of trust and be ready to share the hope you have.
Embedding mission in our structures
In church life we are used to meeting together for worship and we put a lot of time and effort into this. Some churches have home groups or small groups to enable meeting together for fellowship. Most of our churches leave outreach and mission to the individual. It can be difficult to witness to your faith among neighbours, friends, at school or at work if you are in a minority of one.
There are ways to organise church life so that people get together to engage in missional or outreach activities. This can be done by modifying our small groups into missional communities or by just making sure that when we consider outreach and mission we think of what teams or groups can do as well as what individuals can do.