Rather than creating new programs that reinvent the wheel, Rosario Picardo says congregations can multiply the impact of their outreach by seeking out the people and organizations in their community already doing God’s work and forging creative partnerships.
As churches, we have a tendency to create “new” programs either out of a desire for control or because we simply don’t know about the good work already taking place around us. The financial reality, however, is that churches alone can’t possibly meet all the needs in our communities. And hundreds of people in our towns and cities are already doing God’s Kingdom work daily!
As a church, we need to get out into our communities and find out how we can partner with the great organizations and events already in action. We are more than the sum of our parts. Together, God can work through us and expand our reach beyond our individual capabilities. I have witnessed some great examples of God’s multiplying effect through partnerships. Here are some ways you can get connected to community work as a church.
After-school programs. By allowing the space for after-school programs to meet and encouraging your laity to get involved with the work, the church can both bring more kids and their parents into their doors than they otherwise might while serving kids in the area who need an extra meal, tutoring, encouragement, healthy relationships, and a safe space for fun.
As a church, we need to get out into our communities and find out how we can partner with the great organizations and events already in action.
Job and life skills mentorship programs. As a church, we’re not only concerned with helping people who are living in poverty; we want to help people out of poverty! There are many programs across the country offering adults the job and life skills they need to break out of poverty. Churches can offer these programs space to meet and servants to teach, mentor, counsel, and encourage while allowing organizations with successful models to continue their effective work!
Music education programs. As public schools face budget cuts and let go of their arts programs, organizations have sprung up to offer students affordable or free music lessons and experiences. In order to keep their own costs low, these programs often need practice and even performance space. Imagine your entire sanctuary filled with people who don’t come to Sunday church services, the ability to greet them with warmth and hospitality, and the chance to begin building some relationships.
Local radio stations. Radio stations often sponsor events or hold their own fundraising events and are looking for space and perhaps some servants to assist with events. Again, this is a group of people who may not be familiar with your church. It gets the message out to the community that you care and you’re there as a church.
Community events. Maybe you have a great idea for an event you’d like to offer your community, but are low on funds to host. Check your community calendar from years past. Chances are, there are similar events already planned whose organizers would love to have extra volunteers and more to offer at the event (pitch in a hot-dog stand, for example) in exchange for double-billing of the event!
Garden/Urban farming programs. Local and urban farming initiatives are popping up across the country. These growers and markets are serving as oases in food deserts and alleviating the lack of access to fresh, healthy, organic food. Many have educational camps or programs designed to teach our next generations how to grow, harvest, and prepare their own foods. Hook up with one of these local groups to find out how you can get involved!
Food pantry/access programs. Even if your church doesn’t have its own food pantry, it can perhaps serve as a distribution center for existing food access programs.
Crisis organizations. Organizations already operate across the country to provide necessities to those in financial or medical crisis. Likewise, churches will inevitably come across people in need. Establishing a partnership with these organizations can streamline the process of getting needed aid to a church member, and can provide the organizations with office space or can co-fund community awareness initiatives.
Recovery organizations. As Christians, we are all “in recovery.” But those who are in recovery from drugs, alcohol, and other addictions need support from recovery organizations as well as from their local churches. Again, many very successful recovery organizations already exist in our towns and cities, but they need safe spaces to meet, and the participants are often required to attend a local church for community and accountability.
Local police departments. The church can be a great place to connect police officers and the public they serve on neutral ground. Invite your local force to take part in a community kickball event. This is a partnership that is badly needed in our country today and easy to at least help get started. Police officers, in return, can be an invaluable source of information for the church about the specific types of outreach needed by their communities.