Needs are everywhere in a community, from schools to sports leagues to local government to various events and more.
Yet when a church planter and his leadership team enter a place where a church plant is needed, sometimes it’s difficult to be accepted by the community. A planter and their team may be considered outsiders. Building relational bridges with the community can be challenging and take time.
But there’s one simple question that may help a church make connections in the community.
“Get to know people in leadership in the local community and just ask, ‘How can we serve? How can we help?’” says Spence Shelton, who planted Mercy Church in Charlotte a few years ago.
Asking, “How can we help?” communicates that you are not there to take something away from the community, but rather you are looking to give something to the community.
Getting permission to meet these needs takes time, intentionality and patience.
Remember, as church planters, you are entering the picture as an outsider no matter how well-intentioned you are. Building trust within the community often takes weeks, if not months, of consistency in relationships.
Shelton offers another piece of helpful advice: “Don’t give up.”
Keep going back repeatedly until a friendship is built and trust begins to grow. Then, as your sincerity and commitment becomes clear, needs and opportunities to serve will begin to emerge.
Service opportunities may start small, but it’s important to start where people are, not where you would like them to be. Trust takes time. As you are faithful to meet small needs, God will provide greater opportunities.
Why is this so important? The ultimate goal is to share the gospel with those you are serving alongside and building relationships with. When you represent Christ by loving and serving others, your new friends will want to know what motivates you to be who you are and do what you do.
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