7 Ways to Love Your Community

Church leaders should love their churches where they are now, not where they wish their congregations could be in the future. That’s a given, or at least should be. But what about the community? Church leaders should love their communities as much as their churches. Granted, some churches are easier to love than others, and some communities are easier to love than others. A calling to a place, however, requires a love for that place.

One of the pitfalls of church leadership involves the call to a new place—a location in which the new minister has little knowledge. Some of us grow up living in a number of different places. My family moved every three years or so when I was a child, and I’ve pastored from Florida to Indiana. But even if you have experienced several transitions, a new place of ministry can prompt infatuation or disdain with the community.

Infatuation occurs when you feel like the new location is more exotic: big city, rural community, beachside, in the mountains—whatever excites you more than your current location. But infatuation quickly fades as you settle into a routine. Disdain occurs when you feel like the new community does not provide what your previous community offered. And disdain can stick with you. Whether you’re infatuated or disappointed with the location of your ministry, you must learn to love your new community in the same way you learn to love a new congregation. Love for a congregation mismatched with disdain for a community will cause you to retreat in an unhealthy church bubble. Either you will lead your congregation inward, or they will (rightly) question your bitterness and lack of outward focus.

What are some ways church leaders can learn to love their communities?

  1. Don’t go home. If you’re jumping at every opportunity, or fabricating lame excuses, to get back home, then your heart is clearly not in the community. God calls church leaders to minister in a place. If you’re looking for every chance to leave that place, then you’re not being a good gospel ambassador.
  2. Join in the fun. Every community has unique ways (or occasions) it celebrates. Jump in and contribute to the celebration. Only the most hardened of curmudgeons can hang on to bitterness when everyone around them is having fun.
  3. Live with the people. Don’t move to the outskirts, away from the people. Live in the heart of your community. Your home is not a retreat from ministry; it is a crucial tool in ministry
  4. Stop complaining. It’s difficult to grow a church when you’re gaining a reputation as the town killjoy.
  5. Stay active. Be on the go in your community. Sedentariness exacerbates loneliness, frustration, displeasure.
  6. Join a civic organization. Be a leader beyond your church. When the community (in addition to your church) is looking to you for leadership, then you are obligated to create a positive outlook for everyone.
  7. Try something new on a regular basis. Break the routine. Go to different restaurants. Travel different roads. Attend a new festival. Hang out with a different crowd. It’s difficult to harbor negativity when you’re excited about trying something new.

I’m interested in your thoughts. Do you have any ideas about how church leaders can learn to love their communities?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sam Rainer III

Sam serves as lead pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church. He is also the president of Rainer Research, and he is the co-founder/co-owner of Rainer Publishing. His desire is to provide answers for better church health. Sam is author of the book, Obstacles in the Established Church, and the co-author of the book, Essential Church. He is an editorial advisor/contributor at Church Executive magazine. He has also served as a consulting editor at Outreach magazine. He has written over 150 articles on church health for numerous publications, and he is a frequent conference speaker. Before submitting to the call of ministry, Sam worked in a procurement consulting role for Fortune 1000 companies. Sam holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in Missiology from Southern Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies at Dallas Baptist University.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Dave Shrein — 08/08/13 9:28 pm

Sam, loved this. Just got back from day 1 of the willow creek association global leadership summit and completely agree with this for leaders! Well said.

Mike Hill — 08/06/13 1:59 pm

I think any planter who is willing to move closer to the people he wants to reach is the real deal. I'm talking about residency. I really like the idea of being involved in civic leadership and doing non ministry related projects of goodwill in your community.

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> Are there any reliable statistics about the percentage of church plants that fail after 3 years in the US?
 
— Jon Moore
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 

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