This is a guest post by Jen Edwards, a kid’s ministry coach and consultant.
The families in your church matter, and so do the families outside your church.
God has positioned you and the church you are in to uniquely serve the families around you and help them grow spiritually, meet their physical needs, and gain connection to a body of believers.
Answer these three questions to reach your community better.
- Who are the families in your community?
- What do they need?
- How will you meet their needs?
Sometimes as a Church, we are answering questions no one is asking and addressing needs no one in our community has.
Who are the families in your community?
It can feel overwhelming to know all the families we serve each week, but I believe we are also called to reach those outside the walls of our church, too.
The purpose of reaching outside the walls is not to increase weekly attendance in your ministry, but to increase the connection between God, His Church, and your community.
If all you ever do is serve the families within your church, that is all the families you will have.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:8
This verse is very personal and I have always read it as a challenge to myself.
These 3 places mentioned, Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, were areas surrounding the people being spoken to in the Bible.
My areas go by other names, and yours do, too.
However, the Bible principle remains.
I am called, you are called to reach out far and wide with the good news, but also close and near.
The closer and closer you and I reach the more difficult it can be because it becomes more real, it is more personal, and it costs more of you.
Enter your community.
I encourage you to look into your community, not just at it.
You can find out a great deal about the community you serve by using your community resources.
You can join in with already planned community events, and solve problems already obvious to your families.
Do you have a school near you?
Local schools, like kids ministries, always need help.
If your church is near a community school, or many others, consider the way you can work in partnership with one or many schools in the area.
Here are some ideas:
- Could your church sponsor the snack and supplies, or even volunteer for a special school event?
- Could your church offer to clean the school or do a mural for the school?
- Could your church or ministry pay off a child’s school lunch debt?
- Could you do a coat drive, or a school supplies drive?
Do you have a local Children’s Services Department in your community?
- You could do a parent room/visitation room makeover.
- Host a diaper drive.
- Sponsor children and families for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Do you have a local YMCA in your area?
- Could you partner with your YMCA to help serve the community events they already do?
- Could your staff coach sports teams?
The families in your community will trust you when they see you showing up predictably in their world.
Trust will open them to relationships and those relationships will open them to learning about your church and Jesus.
What Do They Need?
Reaching your community and the families in the community means that your church is set up to answer their unique needs even on Sunday.
What do families need from your church?
How is your current structure and programming set up to address real needs?
These common Church practices can make it harder on families and children in your community:
- Long worship services can mean a child has not eaten in many hours.
- A hard check-in process can highlight differences and stories of kids in foster care.
- Special parent holidays can unintentionally hurt kids raised in a single-parent home or by grandparents.
- Special days, dress-up days, and theme days might be harder on families with lower incomes.
- Bright lights and loud noises can make it harder for kids with sensory needs.
Make sure that what you do in your church serves the needs of the community around your church.
Reaching your community also means serving their needs past a Sunday morning.
If someone in the community needed something would your church’s website be the first place they think to look?
Sometimes finding the needs of your community can be hard.
Use these resources:
- Join neighborhood or community FB pages and watch to see what is posted. By reading the information there you can quickly learn the needs of the people in your community.
- Meet with the school counselors and ask them what the needs of the families are. They will be able to guide you.
- Ask a pediatrician in your area about the needs you can practically address.
- Google search your area’s census report. This report will help you find out the employment status and income of those in your area. This is especially good information if you serve in a community you do not live in.
The information about the needs of your community is out there.
You may have to dig and go after the information, but finding the need allows you to address it.
How will you meet their needs?
We have identified where the need is, and who is in need, and now we need a plan to address the need.
You can empower your team and the families in your ministry to GO and reach the families in your area.
This is where all your homework will pay off!
The Bible tells us that our faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.
“My Brothers and sisters, what good is it if people say they have faith but do nothing to show it? Claiming to have faith can’t save anyone, can it? Imagine a brother or sister who is naked and never has enough food to eat. What if one of you said, ‘Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal?’ What good is it if you don’t actually give them what their body needs? In the same way, faith is dead when it doesn’t result in faithful activity.”James 2:14-17
Faithful activity is not a one-and-done thing I do to check off the outreach box on my ministry plan.
It is a deep look, close relationship, and understanding of the community I serve.
When formulating your plan it is ok if you start small.
- List all the information you know.
- Add the details – who, what, and where.
- Write exactly what the need that you plan to address is.
- Plan how you will solve the problems by listing exactly what you will do in your church and your community.
Once you have this plan written, start small.
Consistency and simplicity are more important than flashy and fleeting.
If the Kid’s Ministry we serve in disappeared tomorrow, would the families in the community around us miss it?
I hope the answer is yes!
We are called to know the people we serve; we are challenged to learn their physical needs, and we are called to do something about it!
God has called us to the families in our church and those in our communities.
We can address spiritual and physical needs.
Jesus knew that it was possible to do both, and He is calling us to follow His lead!
Jen has 20 years of experience advocating and serving kids and families. Recently, she completed 10 years as the Kids Director at her local church, but remains focused on mentoring and coaching Kids Ministers. She loves speaking to and encouraging those in the thick of parenting or ministry. In her spare time, she loves coffee, long walks by the water, and vacations with her amazing husband and 3 sweet sons. She can be found sharing on Instagram @jenfaithedwards and her website.