Even at this time of year here in northern Maine, several feet of snow can be found in far too many places. Snowmobilers are still flocking to our area to get in their last rides and the kids (and some adults) are still making snowmen. But even for our frozen towns summer is not too far away, and as everyone comes out of hibernation, this is the perfect time to engage our communities.
Here are some important things we’ve learned along the way as we prepare for the primetime of the Spring and Summer months..
1. Pray for a person of peace in your community.
It is possible that your church may be able to serve effectively without your community leadership giving you permission. But in many cases, community service projects require community buy-in from key leaders. Pray that God will connect your church with the person or group of people with access to serve in the most needed and effective places. These leaders already have the trust of their community and working with them will help the community trust you as well.
2. Consider previous years’ successes and failures.
Just because you’ve always done it or been successful with it at one time, doesn’t mean that you should continue doing it. An effective way to remember previous years is to gather the people after every event and collectively think through what you learned. Make sure to document these thoughts and this will help you remember both what to do and what not to do. It may also show you what events need to be overhauled or cut out all together.
3. Brainstorm ideas with your leadership team.
This is not a time to play it safe. This is your chance to get all options on the table and to consider any and every opportunity for engaging your community. Even if it sounds crazy or undoable, put it on the board and you’ll be surprised at how many options there really are.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Pull up the community calendar to see what’s already happening and how you might join any existing service projects that just need more hands. Sometimes these events are the least tiring and most effective because all the administration and advertising has been done. Your job is simply to show up and jump in!
5. Refine the vision and cast it to the church.
If God has given the leadership of the church a clear vision, then make a passionate plea for people willing to join in. You’re not looking for everyone to agree about every idea and detail. What you are looking for are people who are willing to serve. Call them to reach out in your community and make sure they know who they are ultimately following.
6. Pray for God’s plan.
There are many practical questions you could ask as you decide on what to do this summer, but before anything else you should ask “What is God calling us to do?” The vision for summer outreach should be doable, but it should also be God-sized. A vision like this calls your people to follow and trust the only One who can accomplish the real impact your community needs.
You will make many mistakes in outreach but the greatest will be not reaching out at all. Prayerfully consider what God would have your church to do and in the end trust him to do the real work of changing lives for eternity.