Sunday, May 01, 2022

The Village ILWIDIot

By Walt Wiltschek

In real estate, the catchphrase is always “Location, location, location!” Whatever other factors might be in play for a house, you can’t change its physical setting—not easily, anyhow. It encompasses things like proximity to schools or work, demographics, nearby parks or a great view, and potential resale value.
At a conference I attended in Seattle last month, speakers from the Parish Collective said churches should be focusing on that same attribute—but for very different reasons. Think about your congregation’s location: What sort of neighborhood is around it? Has it changed over the years? Is it primarily residential, or rural, or are you near a commercial area? What makes it unique?
Paul Sparks, one of the organization’s founders, says that churches have to see their ministry through “the lens of their neighborhoods.” We’re often good at sending money to other organizations, whether in our towns or around the world, but how well do we really know the places where our church buildings sit?
If you haven’t done so lately, consider talking a walk around the area within a square mile of your building; or, if you’re in a more rural location, take a drive through the surrounding area or the nearest town. If there are people you have seen but haven’t met, stop to say hello. Start a conversation. Maybe small gifts or greetings could be left at homes in way of introduction, or a community event could be held on the church grounds.

Think about any needs that might exist that aren’t being met or, better yet, talk to people about what they would find helpful. Don’t think of it as a means of getting more people in the church doors. Instead, just ponder how can the church be a better and more involved neighbor. And, of course, pray for those neighbors—perhaps in your prayer time in worship.
We often say that God puts us in certain places for a reason. Why might your congregation be in the location that it calls home?