WACO—Churches can strengthen the ministries they provide to their communities by taking five key steps, ministry specialist Amy Sherman told participants at the Next Big Idea conference at Baylor University.
The “next level” of ministry effectiveness is attainable by:
• Moving from commodities to relationships.
Benevolence ministries become frustrating when they focus merely on giving people things but do not develop relationships, said Sherman, a senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Policy Research and director of the Center on Faith in Communities.
A good way to break past this barrier is to ask benevolence recipients, “Is there something you would like to learn or change that would help you in avoiding your problems?” she said.
One church that sponsored a food and clothing closet asked this question and learned people in their neighborhood needed tutoring, English-as-a-Second-Language training and ministry for their children while they shopped in the food pantry, she said.
The new ministries provided opportunities for friendship that enriched lives.
• Moving from emergency relief to betterment and development.
Rather than merely run a soup kitchen, a church can turn it into a jobs-training program by hiring some recipients of the ministry as kitchen apprentices, Sherman suggested.
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• Engage more of the congregation in ministry.
“Use small groups in your church to engage more people in ministry,” she said. “Community service is in the DNA of what small groups should be about.
“And don’t just leave it up to them. Prepare (local service-provider) partners that are willing to use volunteers in their work.”
She describe how a church choir participates in a local Christmas store for low-income families, a men’s Bible study class “adopts” boys who need male role models, and a Mothers of Preschoolers program created a parallel MOPS program for teen mothers.
• Get more strategic in collaboration.
Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., wanted to make a difference in its community but realized the task was too big for one church alone, she reported. So, they invited participants from other churches to meet for breakfast once a month and also invited local leaders, such as the mayor and sheriff, to “come and talk about what the churches could do to improve the city.”
Ultimately, the churches banded together to conduct a citywide tutoring program. They ensure that every third grader in Springfield will learn to read, because learning to read by that stage in a child’s life is a key indicator in whether she or he will drop out of school later.
• Move from ministering “to” to ministering “with.”
“Ask people about their dreams for their community,” Sherman said. “And recognize the people … we’re trying to reach have gifts, too. Work with them.”