Having spent a good deal of time travelling the diocese and meeting with congregations to engage in conversations about Community Engagement. I feel ready to share some of my observations and reflections.
What is Community Engagement?
- Anything we do to put ourselves in front of the communities we serve
- It is about being seen and heard about things that matter to us as Christians
- Not just in our church buildings, we need to be seen in the community
- ‘Share the Gospel and if you have to use words’ – actions do speak louder than words
- Our goal is to address spiritual and sometimes more immediate well-being needs or services to support less fortunate people
Why is community Engagement important?
- We live in a time and place where there are many in our communities who need our support
- It is how we live our faith in the communities we serve
- It can help us to identify spiritual needs and less traditional ways to address them
- Remember that people are more likely to make a choice to join a church after a minimum of 4 visits often for Parish sponsored events – in many communities there are a significant number of retiree transplants who would welcome the fellowship that we offer
How can we approach Community Engagement?
- Remember that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results – be receptive and ready to try different things
- It is less about what we offer and more about how we offer – eg: making visitors welcome
- Partnerships – we don’t have to do it alone – many organizations need space or other forms of support that mean we can be part of a larger whole – who else is supporting others in our community and how can we help?
- Ecumenical – there are other faith groups facing some of the same challenges that we do and with whom we can work together – learn what other faith groups are doing and join in
- Caring for the environment – in our facilities, in our communities and in our country
- There is no ‘one best way’ ‘cookie cutter’ or ‘silver bullet’ approach – we need to tailor our approach to what we already do well, to what we have passion for and to what our community needs. This may mean taking it to the community instead of waiting for the community to come to us – eg: have a table or stall at community events – sponsor an event
- Doors open/lights on for community events – eg: Terry Fox water and rest stop, parade drop ins
- Make sure we are checking our phones for messages frequently
- Have signage that is easily visible from the street and especially that announces service times, upcoming events and easy points of contact
I have been heartened to learn about all of the hard work and dedication exhibited by so many of our congregations. I’ve heard stories about a wide range of activities from lunches and dinners, community meals programs, meals-on-wheels, language classes, thrift stores, garage sales and give aways, tree planting, working with seniors, cook books, supporting the homeless, providing transportation, sharing medial assist equipment, warming centres, refugee support programs, Fellowship Open Tables, Messy Church, special music programs, ecumenical services, bible studies, housing and supporting food banks, Christmas hampers, housing for homeless and seniors, and the list goes on.
I would be delighted to lead a discussion about this important topic; to be a resource for parish mission/vision planning; and/or to help brainstorm ideas for your future. email@example.com 416-931-7153.