If you are reading this after church, this blog is especially for you — because today’s issue is faith in action, the role of the church in the larger community. In years gone by the pastor’s preaching and personality, and the exuberance of the choir were enough to attract people to church and keep them coming back. Today things are a little different. The number of people filling church pews is smaller and so are funds collected in tithes and offerings. While there are many thoughts about why this is happening, there are also many people searching for a church home where their experience will extend beyond the building. They are seeking a church that is active in the community living out Christ’s message of love, compassion, forgiveness, healing, and social justice. They are seeking others like themselves who believe “as you do unto the least of my brothers, so you do unto me.”
Does your church offer members a meaningful way to live out their faith? Is yours a congregation that offers inspiring Sunday services as well as an opportunity to be of service throughout the week? Are young and talented people who want to make a difference attracted to your church? And if you are parishioner, are you satisfied with your church experience, or are you looking for a way to live out your faith?
In many churches it is the pastor who takes the lead in creating programs that meet community needs. Other times it starts with the church membership. If you are committed to your church home and seeking a greater sense of community involvement through your church, here are a few suggestions:
- Take initiative. You don’t have to wait for someone else to raise the issue of community involvement. Talk with your friends and family members about how your church can make a difference. Research community needs and existing programs. Canvass your membership about how they are willing to get involved. Bring your suggestions to your pastor and church leadership.
- Take advantage of existing programs. While your first thought may be to create a program within your own church, you may find that you can save a lot of time, energy and money by partnering with an existing secular program or a comparable program run by another church or by another faith community. For example, you can suggest that church members agree to serve as mentors for a local mentoring program instead of setting up your own mentoring program. If the church down the street has a meal program, suggest that your congregation support their work by volunteering and making a financial commitment. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
- Be consistent. Once you determine how you want to live out Christ’s message in your community, start small and stick with it. Don’t give up after the glow of something new begins to fade.
We have witnessed churches that are vibrant, growing, and attracting young families. They offer strong worship services as well as a way for members to make an impact in their community. We have witnessed church members who give of their limited time and money because they believe in the work of the church in their community. They believe their congregation can make a difference and they get involved. If you are seeking more from your church experience you are not alone. Talk with others and take initiative to express your faith in action.