This post on community engagement is written by Chris Trethewey, a North Point Strategic Partner and Lead Pastor of TCC, a multisite church impacting communities across Pennsylvania. Chris and his wife, Kim have two daughters and Lola, their golden retriever. Chris loves a great espresso, riding his road bike, and spending time creating in his woodshop.
By Chris Trethewey:
If your church shut its doors today. Closed up shop. Turned off the lights. Left.
Would anyone in your community know?
Would anyone in your community even care?
Don’t rush past this. These two questions should create tension within you—demanding your attention.
It is so easy to get caught up doing church that we forget that the ultimate call is to be the church. The constant barrage of weekend services continues to assault us at a rhythm and pace that consumes all our energy, demands complete focus and leaves us spinning into the next weekend. And, don’t get me wrong, the weekend service is important.
But let me ask this question, how disproportionate is your leadership energy towards the weekend service compared to how you are serving your local community?
The reality is that churches, no matter the size and location, seem to struggle to significantly engage the communities they are positioned to serve. And now more than ever, our communities desperately need the church to be present and purposeful.
And this is why I want to share with you four steps you can take to amplify your community engagement.
A bit of context…
Over the past 25+ years, I have had the privilege of leading churches in major cities including Las Vegas, the greater NYC area and the Fort Lauderdale area. And then God, like only He can do, led my family to small-town USA to be the lead pastor at TCC (www.tcconline.tv).
We currently have eight churches in towns with a population ranging from 365 to 50,000. And yes, you read that correctly. We have a church in a town of 365. It has one stoplight. One gas station. Of course, it has a Dollar General. The learning process has been vast, and my faith has been stretched beyond words. The more God reveals, the more I feel overwhelmed by the opportunity we have to love people by serving people to Jesus.
1. DISCOVER: What is the real need within your community?
What are the needs in your community right now?
I will never forget the day I found myself meeting with Nikki, a high-level leader within one of our churches. God was working on overdrive within her. And she was scared, knowing that God was applying pressure on her to move into action.
She looked at me and started to share about the young single moms in our communities that are alone, without support, and would never walk into a church or even feel welcomed in a church. And she knew she had to do something.
This launched Beyond Mom: A group that provides community and mentorship for real-life issues that young moms face every day.
So, what are the needs in your community right now?
Another way to ask this question is, what are you for?
I am part of the North Point Partners Network, a gathering of like-minded leaders who are committed to seeing the church grow. Thanks to Jeff Henderson, the conversation of, “What are you For?” has been a constant focus. I have been challenged, and my vision has been refined by being part of this group of leaders. And because of this, the impact across our communities has been exponential.
We have discovered that people need mattresses and that kids are being taken into foster care without any possessions. We have discovered that local government agencies are struggling just to keep doors open and that teachers are exhausted and lacking resources.
I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to discover what the real needs are within your community. Engage with foster care leaders, school administrators and government agencies. Seek out local business leaders who are for their community.I can’t encourage you enough to carve out time to discover what the real needs are within your community. @christrethewey Click To Tweet
2. GATHER: Who is for your community?
I get it. Time is limited and energy is not limitless. I think about all that we, as a collective of churches, are doing with a skeleton staff and stretched resources. What I know is that our greatest resource is not money or buildings.
Our greatest resource is passionate people leveraging their one life to make an eternal impact.Our greatest resource is passionate people leveraging their one life to make an eternal impact. @christrethewey Click To Tweet
Every time we discover a new need, God surfaces a passionate leader to step up and partner with us.
Who is the community influencer who has a heart for serving broken and hurting people?
Who is the business leader who desires to leverage their resources for good?
Who is the non-profit director who values partnership and collaboration?
Who is the church pastor who embodies a kingdom mindset?
Amplify the vision and actively seek out like-minded people who are for your community.
3. ENGINEER: How do you streamline the strategy for maximum impact?
One of our team’s go-to sayings is this: We are constructing the plane while flying.
Is it messy? Yes.
Does it drive my inner strategic mind crazy? Absolutely.
Do we feel like we are on the edge of losing control? Weekly.
Let me pause here for a moment and clarify.
I am not talking about haphazard and thoughtless decision-making that leads to poor execution.
What I am saying is don’t overcomplicate and don’t overthink this step. And definitely don’t wait for the perfect scenario to launch.
When you discover the right need and gather the right people, engineer a plan and move into action. Along the way, make wise leadership decisions that position the idea and strategy for success.When you discover the right need and gather the right people, engineer a plan and move into action. @christrethewey Click To Tweet
And yes, take a gigantic leap of faith trusting that God is going to fill in the gaps.
4. SURRENDER: What do you need to lose control of?
I am not sure of how you are wired, but I am Type A – Enneagram 8 – INTJ – Red – High “D” – Wonder & Invention Genius personality. (Did I cover all the tests?)
This step is difficult for me because leading in the mess goes against everything within me. Is it difficult for you? (More than likely, no matter your personality type, it is.)
Are you holding on too tightly?
One of our leadership core values within our organization is this: EMPOWER → Let go without looking away.
This one simple statement has created a tidal wave of forward movement. It is a constant reminder that we have to lead with open hands. We have to trust the people on our team. And we must let go while never looking away.
Seize the Moment
There is a simple statement that I shared at the beginning. It is a phrase that is deep-rooted into the DNA of our churches. We are committed to loving people by serving people to Jesus.
When people see love in action, they lean in.
When people experience love in action, they desire to know more.
And when this happens, doors open to have life-changing conversations about Jesus.
In a culture where the conversation is focused on what the church is against, we can change the narrative by living out what the church actually is.In a culture where the conversation is focused on what the church is against, we can change the narrative by living out what the church actually is. @christrethewey Click To Tweet
And, as you love people by serving people in your community, they will move toward your church.
The fact is that most people who are considering your church will not attend physically before they check you out online. This is especially true of younger generations, but becoming more true for everyone.
Are you consciously speaking to both a physical and digital audience in your services? Are you expecting that they are both listening?
A FREE RESOURCE ON COMMUNICATING TO A HYBRID AUDIENCE
We’ve been spending a lot of time recently with church leaders to help ensure that their physical AND digital audiences both feel like they belong and were expected to be there. In the process, we’ve put together this resource on Communicating to a Hybrid Audience that we hope could be helpful to you. And…it’s FREE.
You can get it right here or go to:
If you have any questions, you can also email us here: email@example.com
What about you?
Have you explored your communities needs? Have you been able to gather leaders and influencers from your community into the process? Tell us all about it in the comments below.