I was at lunch with a few Church Planters the other day. As I listened to the conversation, I was reminded that we have developed a mindset and focus on planting a service and not planting a church or planting the Gospel. Not only have we trained planters to focus on the launch, we have turned many of these Planters into “event planners.” Don’t get me wrong, Church Planters should focus on a launch date and the architecture of worship services. My fear is when most the focus is on the service and not the community or city then we attract friends and consumers, basically people who already attend church or Christians who like us. Church Planting isn’t aimed at moving or transferring people around. In fact most Church Planters get upset at the idea of building a church on people who already attend another church. As I drove home, I thought of a few easy ways to plant the Gospel by focusing on the city. Here are 11 ways a planter can easily build relationships with and I the city. Please feel free to comment and add more.
1. Join Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce: Business leaders are the “conveners” in the city. They know the city and have relationships and access to many people the church doesn’t. They also have access to resources a planter often needs. Business leaders are also great to have on your core or launch team. They love start-ups and know how to build sustainable models.
2. Move into the neighborhood that you want to reach/change: Your church can’t be missional if you’re not missional. Not only will this increase your relational bandwidth in the city, it will increase your heart and love for the community and city you’re trying to reach.
3. Take the principal of the nearest school out to lunch and ask how can you serve him, the teachers and the school: Schools impact a majority of people in the community. Kids, parents, businesses and teachers are all connected to local schools. Join PTA, serve at the school carnival, invite the teachers to a teacher’s appreciation lunch, etc. The longer you focus on the school the greater benefit to your church.
4. Work at or regularly visit a popular community gathering hole or place (i.e. coffee house) before and during and even after your launch phase: Spend time at the places the community gathers.
5. Visit people in your church at the work place: This is a great way to honor your leaders and meet their friends.
6. Define the area you’re trying to reach and focus on it and serve it relentlessly: I think we ask the wrong questions when planting a church. We ask how many people showed up? How much was given this weekend? We need to begin asking questions like is my community/city different because we are here? What specific things are we doing to serve our community? Are we focused on being the biggest church in the city or churching the city?
7. Join an organization that wants to see good happen in the community (i.e. Association board, PTA, Police Chaplin): Gather where leaders gather and go where influencers can be found.
8. Coach a youth sports team or become a team mom or dad: One of the best ways to plant a church and reach lost people is by meeting kids and families. Being visible and building credibility is a key strategy in reaching the lost.
9. Find out what big events happen in the city (parade, festival, fair, etc.) and bring your people to serve: Start with small things (i.e. pick up trash) and see them become big things over time. Find favor with the city and watch them invite you to more. Churches have one resource that community groups and government lacks and that is an army of volunteers. Get your people engaged in the city. People will notice and your people will focus more on their role in the city.
10. Find 1-2 projects a year that allow you to mobilize your people to serve others in wild and innovative ways: Pick a couple ways to impact lives and be intentional about the things you choose. I think we have a twisted view of the missionary. We see the missionary as an individual we support and send somewhere. I believe the “church is the missionary.” As Pastors, our role is the raise up leaders and mobilize our church to be the missionary in the city.
11. Map out a prayer walk that will allow you to pray for the city, be visible and meet people: Prayer changes things and changes your heart. Prayer will increase your vision for a lost world and it will open doors of opportunity that you can’t open on your own. Start walking and praying, as you do this be open to what God is saying and leading you to do.