This past weekend we held our region biennial. Part of the program included leaders from three of our churches telling how God was using them to impact their communities. Two of the churches were smaller. One speaker was a bivocational pastor whose church had 24 people on the first Sunday he preached there. Today, it runs about 130, and he is still bivocational. However, the stories were not about numbers; they were about ministry.
We heard stories of these churches identifying needs in their communities that were going unmet and their resolve to meet those needs. One pastor told of how his church began a clothing give-away several years ago and about the truckloads of used clothing that was distributed. Today, that has evolved into giving new clothing to kids who need clothes to begin school each fall. An interesting thing about this ministry is that it could be expanded but no other church in the community wants to assist them. We heard about a church that provides free food at special events in their community and prepares free meals monthly to help feed its community. We heard how a church that had gone through significant conflict learned a process for making decisions that has helped them go through transitions without such conflict.
Each of these churches were in different geographic areas of our region, they were different sizes, their pastors had different levels of theological education, and they were each serving in communities that differed from one another, but each had one thing in common. They had become very intentional about what they were doing. They had identified needs in their communities that other churches were not meeting (and had little interest in meeting), and they did something about it. Not everything they tried worked, but at least they were attempting to make a difference. Some of their initial efforts worked but needed to be improved. As they evaluated their efforts they were able to identify ways to improve those efforts allowing them to serve even more people. Too many churches open their doors each Sunday hoping that something good is going to happen. These churches are very intentional about their ministries in the communities, and good things are happening.
Another common theme was that the funds became available to meet those needs. Church leaders often complain about the low level of giving in those churches, but that is often due to the low level of ministry that exists in their churches. One of the churches is beyond full on Sunday morning and needs new space. They have designated one Sunday's offering to be set aside in their building fund, and they chose the first Sunday's offering, which is the largest in many churches, to go to their building fund. This has not hindered their ministries because people are excited to attend and give to a church that is making a difference in people's live. Another church reported that 20 percent of their income is now going towards mission work in the denomination and in their community.
My prayer is that those in attendance came away from this meeting looking for ways to minister to their communities. Any excuses they may have had in the past is no longer valid. If these churches could do the things they are doing, so can any other church. So can your church! All it requires is taking the time to look around and find ministry opportunities that exist around you, spending time in prayer asking what God would have you do, and then taking a step of faith to minister to those needs. Your initial efforts do not need to be perfect. Just begin, and then you can make adjustments later to improve what you are doing. You will probably become very surprised at what God will begin to do through you.