It has been said that if you want to know what a person values, check their calendar. They reflect what we feel is important and worthy of giving our time to. Calendars reflect priorities, whether they be personal or church business. Most churches have a master calendar that contains all events, reservations, service times, and ministries that are offered. Most often the church has a group of leaders (church council, leadership team, etc) that has the responsibility of coordinating all of the above. One important task in this planning is to ensure there is as little overlap as possible. The last thing we as a church wants is to schedule multiple ministry opportunities on the same day and cause our people to have to choose.
There is another calendar to think about that is often overlooked. The community calendar. Every local community has a calendar that lists events, fellowship opportunities, news, festivals, and other functions that locally unique. Most often a town council or special events committee publishes this calendar far enough ahead so that their community can plan for participation.
Why does all of this matter? I believe that for far too long the church and community itself has been content to exist and function as if they don’t need each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If we as a church say that community matters then we should work together as often as possible. The church needs the community. The community is the place and the people into which God has planted the local church as light, ministers of grace, and portraits of love. God has called His people to their community to flavor and influence. The community needs the church as well. Whether they acknowledge it or not does not negate the truth of it. The community needs the positive influence the local church brings to the table. The community needs the willingness and desire to serve and make a difference that is in the very DNA of the church.
I am not advocating allowing the secular community to determine what kinds of ministry the church engages in and when it is done. I don’t believe that would be wise on our part. I am fairly certain the community would not allow the church to determine their activity either. How then can we work together? Does the church have a responsibility to be involved in the life of their local community? Absolutely. Can both parties benefit when each are acknowledged? No doubt.
I have done a great deal of thinking on this subject and it has shaped my philosophy of ministry. When planning events and ministry opportunities for the church body, we should take into account what is going on in the community on that given day or weekend. Not for the simple matter of avoiding conflict, instead for the possibility that the church can take part in that event. Conversely, when there are special events in the community the church should seek ways to involve itself when possible. As the church involves itself in the everyday life of the community, over time trust is built and relationships are formed.
The goal for the church as it relates to the community is to be an agent of change and hope through the message of the gospel of Christ. When the community sees that the church cares about the people and their future, without strings attached, the church earns credibility in the eyes of the community. Now, does the community have to acknowledge the church for the church to be credible? Of course not. However, the old saying is true here, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” This credibility is the platform from which the gospel is made known. If we as a church believe in making a difference and permanent imprint on our community, then involvement is necessary. Why compete when we can cooperate?