I wrote the post below more than six years ago. While I think the ideas are still DEFINITELY at play in our churches, I think this is a microscope we can turn onto ourselves. When we hear about needs in the community — whether they’re one-offs or larger systemic needs — can we just ignore them?

During an event this past weekend, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit a church that was so inspiring and so in tune with the needs of the community and others that I felt ashamed at my lack of action. I’ve found that it’s easy to get caught up in the “business of church” (discussing parking spaces and debt reduction and building projects), but it’s more challenging to ACT in accordance with my faith, to be obedient to serve. That’s where I’m at today — and it was obviously on my mind a few years ago as well.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day — writing the sermon, preparing the choir, arranging the Bible studies, meeting with the stewardship committee, keeping the deacons happy — that we occasionally lose sight of the ministry opportunities outside the doors of the church.

There are obvious ministries. Someone is hungry? Serve a meal. Someone needs shelter? Provide shelter. A gentleman needs a ride to the doctor? Provide the ride.

But sometimes the needs aren’t so obvious.

Sometimes we have to take a serious look at our congregations or our communities to see the trends. We need to pray for God’s guidance and dedicate time to an in-depth analysis.

Maybe you meet with the superintendent of schools and find that kids in your part of the city have terrible grade point averages. Maybe those children need tutors. Are kids eating enough? Do they have access to the materials — school supplies and technology — they need to compete?

Maybe the director of the soup kitchen tells you just how high the rate of homelessness in your area. Or maybe yours is an aging community and there are challenges surfacing there. Maybe you learn from the fire chief that there’s one family who lost their home to a fire and they need absolutely everything to start over. How can your church help?

Once those needs and trends are identified, then you need to look at what God has provided you — manpower, equipment, organization, money. Do you have the resources to help, and do it correctly? Do you need to partner with another church or organization?

Once you’ve identified the need, and once you’ve identified your team and assessed the members’s strengths and gifts, you’re ready to build the ministry.

Take the time. Devote the resources. Understand the need. Be obedient and meet the need.

How does your church analyze and meet the needs of your community? 

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