Desired Future 1: Churches Flowing into Their Communities
Our congregations will flow like streams into their communities. We will meet our neighbors at community events and gathering places, listening to each other, learning from each other, and serving each other. By our presence we will become channels for the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit’s life-giving transformation.
Our congregations will
- explore their communities, learning from neighbors where a community’s life is lively and fresh, and where it is parched and asking for help.
- discover where God’s Spirit is moving, working through individuals, organizations, other churches, and businesses to meet needs and to bring health and freedom.
- joyfully join this work of transformation.
- discern, through community presence and partnerships, how lay and ordained leaders can offer the good news of faith in Christ in ways that connect to the needs our neighbors express, and to their cultures.
- as a result of listening and discernment, give birth to new churches and discipling communities
“About 10 years ago we realized that we could be zapped off our property and our neighbors wouldn’t notice.”
“We began with a desire to figure out who our neighbors are. Right next to the church we have low-income housing, a building with lots of social issues. So instead of having our church picnic in a park somewhere, we put it on the front lawn to see who came. And a bunch of our neighbors from next door came. That gave us a clue: if we provided an opportunity for food and connection, we’d get a response.
“One of our home churches decided to host a dinner once a month and to invite the people from the immediate neighborhood. Our learning curve was, and is, How do we move from serving people to welcoming them into the fabric of our social lives and our day-to-day living? It’s one thing to serve someone and be hospitable. It’s another thing to become friends.
“Building friendships across cultural boundaries takes energy. It’s intimidating at first too. Will I say the wrong thing? Am I being hospitable, or am I offending? But over time we are realizing how rich and fun and empowering it is to lean in, to get to know our neighbors’ stories.
“We also discovered that there were organizations in our neighborhood where God was already at work and that God was inviting us to jump in and join that work. So every Tuesday night a group of volunteers distributes perishable food with two community food organizations. There too we are learning not just to serve those who come but also to hear their stories and create relationships with them.
“God has put us in this neighborhood. So now we’re asking, How is it that the neighbors sense that we’re truly neighbors, that we’re for them and that it’s an interwoven relationship?”
Kevin DeRaaf is the pastor of Faith CRC in Burlington, Ontario, a middle-class bedroom community between Hamilton and Toronto. Over the past decade, the congregation has increasingly moved its ministry beyond its church walls