Living in the Community
To grow your ministry, do you need to live in the town? Can you effectively recruit (children and volunteers, in my case) when you live in a separate area and commute in?
This has been a recent topic of discussion with other ministries, in Allendale and in other areas. For example, very few pastors in Allendale live in the area. Most commute in on Sunday mornings, so naturally there is a limited amount of connection.
While it may not be a requirement to live in the town, a couple of illustrations show that being in the community facilitates and strengthens ministry opportunities.
Just Living Life
A few weeks ago, just before school started, I was trying to find out where I could get my brakes replaced on my car. Based on recommendations, I stopped at two places along the same highway.
At one place worked a guy who has several children that are a part of our after school program. Besides asking about my car (they didn’t do the work I needed), we talked about them moving to another part of the county, and he showed me a rattlesnake that he killed with his lawnmower. You know, just ordinary stuff in Allendale. After our chat, I was back on my way.
At another shop, as I was leaving, I ran into another dad of some kids who came to our summer camp. He said he was just wondering how he was going to find me. His wife had a serious health condition, and the situation worsened over the weekend. He wanted to make sure his kids would be signed up for the after school program.
Relationships, Not Recruiting
My brother is a great salesman, and he has the track record to prove it. He used to work at a bike shop, and I can’t count how many little old ladies he sold bikes and accessories to, “must haves” for their grandchildren (Kidding, Josh! Sort of . . .). He could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo.
But I’m not great at recruiting or being a salesman. I have a hard time convincing someone to do something that will cost them time and/or money. In my job now, I struggle to recruit kids and volunteers.
But do you see what happened when I was just trying to get my brakes fixed? I had two significant conversations with other fathers, and it had nothing to do with “recruiting.” I was just doing regular life, getting my stuff done. These are the connections that are made and strengthened when you get your brakes fixed, go grocery shopping, get a haircut, and eat at Hardee’s — all in the town in which you do ministry.
One of my co-workers has lived in this area his entire life. He works in the school system, and knows most parents and other adults. So, when we needed to get some feedback about our program from parents and children on just two-days notice, he had the skills and connections to get it done.
Your Presence Builds Credibility
Working at an after school program is a good thing in the eyes of the community. But credibility is further strengthened when people see me around town, at school board meetings, and out to eat. I’ve already received and used an open invitation to be on the sideline for the high school football games – both for my own pleasure, and to show my support for the local team.
So, to do ministry in a community, I don’t think one has to live in the town. But it sure helps. To maximize ministry effectiveness, one needs to have a real-life presence.