Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Church as the Social Center of the Community - Part One

The smaller the community, the more likely it is that the church in that community was once its social center. This is a good historical reputation for a church to hold. Unfortunately, as communities have changed, many churches have lost that important role. However, many people who move to a small community are often looking for social connections. Because social events are often limited in small communities, even people who have lived their entire lives in such communities often look for something interesting to do that engages them with others who have similar interests. Small churches should look for a variety of ways to enhance the concept of the church as the social center of the community to attract both long-term and new residents. Both of these groups are prime candidates for the church to reach, even if they have a dierent worldview than the church.

Washington Baptist Church is located in the middle of Washington, Vermont, a village of five hundred people. At one time, the church was the social center of the community, but in 1993, the church had dwindled to less than twenty active members and was facing possible closure. The church’s denominational leadership encouraged the church to call a young pastor who would focus on reaching the next generation. They did so, and he led the church to host a variety of concerts, outdoor barbecues, and sports activities designed to help the church regain its position as the place where exciting social events happened.

The community responded positively to those eorts because in the collective consciousness of the community, the church had a long history of doing such events even though the church had not done them recently. When that young pastor moved to a new church in 2001, the church had returned to a place of health. The congregation had more than tripled in size and become significantly younger than it had been in many years. The congregation continued to host a variety of community events each year, and in 2007, the church called a second sta member to serve as a youth pastor to more eectively reach the next generation. In 2012 the church continues to be healthy and clearly remains the social center of the village.

If our church seems to have lost touch with our community, it might be time to start hosting a variety of social events. Obviously social events alone will not give the Gospel to our community, but they will build a bridge. As we reconnect with our community through social events, then we will have more openings to share the Gospel with those who need to hear it.

5 comments:

  1. That is an awesome article. It was very interesting and I can't wait to get the book for Jayla and I so I can read more of it. Hope to be up next Sunday for church and to celebrate Jayla's 19th birthday. See you then.

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  2. My church has always been my social center and it was such good training for my children. I must read this up-to-date report.

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  3. Immanuel Baptist ChurchJune 20, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    Terry, as a new church plant in our community we are trying to gain our footing in our community. For the five years previous my wife and I ran a ministry that provided free clothing, house ware items and furniture free to anyone in need. Once we establish ourselves as a church, we will once again reach out and minster to the community. Yet, our community is difficult to reach and we are trying to make it happen.

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  4. Friends at Immanuel,
    Thanks for your comment. May I humbly suggest that the way to establish your church in the community IS to reach out and minister to the community. Start passing out those free clothes and show the community you care. Once they know you care, they will show up to church.

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  5. An active Community Church in our area, has a young couple who pastor and they have a large congregation although must say that church ( on the country) always did. But when they first came to the area, the minister and wife made Pumpkin Pies and distributed ( little by little) to active people who had come to church (since before they started there) This helps them to get to the home, and visit and get to know the people attending. Then next ( once established a little) reached out to those that did not attend but were on list of members or friends of the church to get to understand what is keeping them from church? They hold Christian based activities. A gift exchange around the tree, with real lit candles ( held in firehouse and told how they could use the real candles on tree like in colonial times) and they had a nice Christmas meal, hosted by the church,for members and friends. Also A Christmas Caroling took place. Next weekend before Christmas they had a adult and children re-eanctment of' Bethelem' Adults and children as angels many took part in various ways and the rest came by to see the re-enactment and visit " Bethlehem for Christ's birth" . Two rooms in an old building that used to be a barn was used as setting and it sits next to the church. People all year enjoy Christian focused events and the fact that the young minister and wife take time out for all people in the church as family.

    It is true how this can all add to how a church flourishes. People need to worship but also need fellowship of some kind to hold them together as a family. Like in the book of' Acts' they stayed together and ate together, etc.

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