A church should be the pillar of any community but understanding how to integrate into a local community can be challenging when we live in a fast-paced world with varying cultural groups. For modern churches there is often a habit of only interacting with other churches and their own congregation, leaving local communities out in the cold. It’s all too easy to retreat to simply doing things for existing church attendees and the current congregation without considering the wider community, however, this doesn’t support the healthy growth of a church. Community engagement is vital for a church; it supports the mission, builds awareness of the church’s existence and can make a positive impact on everyone in the local area, no matter their faith or background. How your church engages with the community should be an integral part of your outreach, which is why we’ve shared ten ways you can begin to adopt more community-led programs and increase your church’s reach.
In this guide we will cover;
- Ideas on how you can engage with your local community
- Where to find inspiration to support your local community
1) Community Clean-up
Whether it’s a weekly litter picking scheme or supporting the council by improving green spaces in the area, getting out and about in the local community is a great way to be seen doing something positive for the local community and inspire others. As a society, we are all becoming aware of our impact on the world around us, and by being seen around the local area improving the space, many people will be inspired to join you and want to know how they can get involved. Think about the areas in your community that need some care and spark an initiative that will make everyone in your community love where they live.
2) Share the Space
It can be hard to see your church as anything but a space of faith, but when your services are not running this empty space can be wasted. Instead, think about promoting your church space to networking groups and social gatherings so that people can use the space for other non-religious events. Whether it’s local Meetup groups that share a particular hobby, or business networking events. Make people aware that the church is available for a range of activities and events and can be a flexible space for a variety of events. By adopting flexible furniture such as Grosvenor’s stacking church chairs, you can transform your church space into any layout that is required.
3) Educate and Inspire
Holding workshops and courses within the church space to help people in the community not only helps to support people in the local area but introduces the church to those who may not have been aware of its existence. Whether you decide to put on courses by your congregation or using local specialists, there is a wealth of workshops you can introduce to the church that will encourage people to improve their own learning and development. From growing food, learning an instrument, improving their financial education or learning hobbies such as painting and flower arranging. Discover what your local community would benefit from and make the church a space to inspire and educate.
4) Supper Club
Food is a wonderful way to bring people together, and as many churches have catering space this is an ideal way to appeal to local people. Hosting a monthly supper club with a theme on the food can encourage new people to visit the church and meet others from the community. This can be especially beneficial if you have diverse groups in your community, as getting them to come along and cook their traditional food can truly bring people together and make them more aware of other people in their area.
5) Meet Your Neighbours
You don’t have to do a physical act to engage with your local community, you can also start something locally through the medium of social media. If you don’t already have accounts set up then there is no time like the present and this presents a great way to reach out to people that may not have been involved with community led services in the past, these may include individuals that are dependent on others to leave their homes or people new to the area. Nothing says community than like knowing your neighbours, so why not start a viral social media campaign to encourage people to meet their neighbours and get to know them. You can ask people to post photos or videos of the events they host and share the stories across social media to encourage others. Even supporting an act such as this can build the awareness of your church and the church’s mission because you are the one inspiring others.
6) Talent Swap
Your congregation has a vast array of skills and knowledge, some of which they may not even realise they have. But these skills can support others in the community and lead to people supporting each other in areas they are struggling with. Starting a talent swap can enable people to share their skills for free and help others in the community. Create a volunteering program and list all of the skills and abilities that people have, they can then begin to support others. For example, your congregation may include an electrician, an accountant, a carpenter, a doctor, a baker, computer repairer or a mechanic. People could workout swaps, for example, to help someone with their VAT return they could get a birthday cake in exchange. Promote the talent swap and build awareness of the help that could be provided to the local community.
7) Weeknight Get-togethers
As many people cannot afford to do things in the weeknights, hosting free events in your local area can support people in feeling like they have a more fulfilling life. From quiz nights to movie nights, there are many ways to bring people in during the week where the church space gets used, and people are introduced to what the church has to offer. Creating events such as this can also encourage people to be more social in their local area and make new friends. Ask for some suggestions of what people would love to do in the weeknights and begin something that people can really get involved in.
8) Sports Teams
If you have a high number of young people in your local area sport can be a wonderful way to engage with young people and encourage them to come together for something fun. Create a team around a specific sport that’s popular in the area, or even start something completely new that sparks their interest. By bringing young people together in this way you build their awareness that the church can support them in life, and provide them with a feeling of belonging. Sports like rounders can be played by people of all ages, brings people together and you can enjoy the outdoors and local parks at the same time. Why not even arrange everyone to bring a picnic.
9) Senior Companionship
Loneliness is a common problem among the elderly, but there are many people who are looking to volunteer and support senior citizens. Creating a senior companionship program can help bring people together who are looking to befriend the elderly and do something positive within their community. You could begin by partnering with a local care home and starting a campaign to find out who would like to find a friend. Once a month you could then support the program by hosting an afternoon tea at the church and bringing together all the friends for a fun and casual gathering. Breaking this divide between the ages in the local community can work wonders for people feeling happier and more positive and enable the church to be the catalyst for support in the area.
10) Mum & Baby Groups
New mums are often looking for a way to get out of the house with their little one and meet other new mothers to share their stories. Starting a simple mum and baby group can really help to support those who need a little support in those precious first months. This can bring together people from different backgrounds, and enable the church to be a real support to young families.
11) Annual Events
Hosting annual seasonal events such as Christmas fairs and Easter Egg hunts or even charity balls can appeal to a wide variety of people in the local community and give people something to look forward to. Pull out all the stops for your annual events and ensure to recruit volunteers not just from the congregation but also from the local area so that people can feel like they’ve truly helped and got involved.
In this guide, there is just a handful of ideas to help you engage with your local community, but we know that not all of these ideas may be relevant to the people in your area, or what your church can support. Therefore, to enable you to think of your own unique ideas to engage with the community here are a few ways you can find inspiration for your own unique community engagement events.