History shows that communities are transformed when churches take the initiative to provide services and opportunities for society. Whether it is education, health or employment, many of today’s social provision has its roots in the Church. Whenever there was a need, the Church stepped up to help.
As society changes, churches need to keep pace to reflect the local need. We are uniquely placed to help our communities. Over recent years, food banks have increased and debt advice from Christian organisations have helped thousands. Without churches deciding to help transform their communities, such initiatives may not have happened, or they may have been provided at a cost.
More recently, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised UK churches for their role in supporting their communities during coronavirus lockdowns. Again, this example proves how the actions of the Church can transform communities.
Many churches attempt to reach theirs but end up frustrated when they find it’s not as simple as they expect. Simply providing a building as a community asset is not likely to be enough in today’s world. Instead, churches may want to consider what is necessary for their individual community with its unique requirements.
Here are three ways to help you and your church focus on transforming your community.
1. Discern what to do
Discerning what Jesus is calling your local church to do is an ongoing journey. Jesus does not invite us to do what is fashionable but to genuinely serve.
There are a variety of ways that your church can find out what the deepest needs and resources of your community are. It is always beneficial to examine your local government’s strategic plan because it will have already invested significantly in understanding the community’s social needs and assets.
Beyond that, there are informal approaches you can take: listen to what parents are saying at the school gates; find out what medical staff are saying in doctors surgeries and hospitals; and see what people talk about at the pub or a local sports centre.
2. Pray for transformation
Prayer puts us in a place where God can do a work of transformation in us and our communities. The story of Jonah is a wonderful example of city transformation. After some resistance, Jonah finally followed God’s request to go to the city of Nineveh and communicate his heart to them in a way they would understand.
As a result, the King called the city to prayer and said, “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 3:9). So how can we communicate God’s heart to our cities and invite them to pray?
Civic Prayer Breakfasts are a powerful way of expressing God’s heart to the leaders of our communities and cities. NAYBA has developed a Civic Prayer Breakfast model as a highly effective way to bring church leaders together with civic leaders to pray for the well-being of the community or city.
3. Replicate what works
Our God-given time, energy, talents and resources are too valuable to waste reinventing the wheel. Why recreate a community project that another local church has already pioneered and refined? You could adopt the best practice that has been developed by another local church and adapt it to fit your context or community.
NAYBA has pioneered a strategy of ‘replication rather than duplication’. Duplication is taking elements of a successful project and then trying to unnecessarily redesign it. The problem of making adaptations is they can water down what works or change it completely. Replication, however, is time-saving as all the testing and learning has already taken place.
NAYBA identifies exceptional church-led community projects and helps them capture the genius of what they do and package it in a way that it can be given to other local churches.
Remember, to use discernment and prayer before replicating a project. Some projects may simply not meet the needs of your community. But if there is a programme that will work replication could be the answer!
If you would like to know more about transforming your community, you can buy a copy of our book, Transform. It is packed with tried and tested approaches that churches around the world have used to have an even greater impact in their communities and cities.