The church no longer has the voice it once did—especially not in the New England states. This region of North America was the genesis of revival and the Great Awakening but much has changed.
How can a church engage its community and regain its voice with residents and community leaders? About six years ago our church was asking the same question.
Calvary had gone from full capacity in its heyday to just over a dozen people scrambling to keep the doors open. At one point they even put the building for sale. The closing of Loring Air Force base in nearby Limestone, Maine, and the subsequent struggling economy were major contributors to this shrinking membership and the budgetary crisis.
Now more than twenty years after the base closing, Calvary is experiencing steady growth. Though an increased pew population is probably a positive sign, it doesn’t necessarily reflect our real impact in our community. We wanted more than just an increased Sunday morning attendance.
So six years ago we began to think through how we might see true change and influence in northern Maine. Through much prayer and consideration, we scheduled an entire week for our church to serve our city. We called it “Calvary Cares About Caribou.”
Below are a few things we decided to do to have the greatest possible impact in those few short days. This of course is not an exhaustive list and our work is ongoing, but this week has helped lay a foundation for the ministry opportunities we’ve experienced over the past years.
Go to your community leaders with open hands and open agendas.
You probably know the leaders in your community with the greatest connection to the people and heartbeat of your community. If not, you need to think about who they are and also realize that they may not work in city hall. In fact, your community leaders may not work in the government at all, but they can access decision makers and influence public opinion. In our community the recreation department has the most significant influence, especially when it comes to children. When you find these community leaders, be ready to open yourself up to however they ask you to serve because they’re going to know the community’s real needs. Set aside any agendas because the last thing you want is to attach your service to expectations.
Under-commit and over-deliver.
Be very careful what expectations you set when it comes to service projects. Make sure to commit only to what you can do very well within their time frame and always try to to exceed their expectations. You can always ask for more work if you get bored, but it’s difficult to regain trust if you don’t finish well.
Don’t be afraid to market who you are.
One thing that will help your church get a name for serving in the community is a good logo. Make signs, t-shirts and other marketing materials to let your community know who is doing the work for them. At the end of the day, you want your church to be known for serving in your community so make sure you tell them who you are.
Calvary Cares About Caribou is one of many service projects our church does throughout the year. Over the past six years we have won awards from our city and school system for our work. Hopefully along the way we have won their hearts as well. The end goal of all of our serving is for every person in our city to know the love that God has for them. We long for them to know about the ultimate way that Jesus has served us through the cross. We hope that our service points them to this hope.
Featured image courtesy of Calvary’s Baptist Church’s Facebook page.