Musician Shaun Groves has made a provocative post about the way third world churches function compared to western churches, and it is making waves in the Christian blogosphere. It is a quick read, with lots of powerful pictures, so I suggest you read it first to give my post some context.
In the comments section Shaun writes, “What would YOU like to do about it where you live? If you have a blog and you have an answer – no matter how idealistic or crazy it might sound – post about it.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I am convinced that the church needs to be radically local in living out it’s mission (I’ve written some thoughts about that here). So, here are some of the ideas that I think would be beneficial to the community around our local church:
- Gardening or Farming – Our church has a pretty nice chunk of flat real estate, probably 75% of it is just open grass with no buildings on it. We don’t use it very much, except to mow over. I’ve been thinking recently, What if we started a huge garden? In fact, we have enough land that it could be more like a mini-farm. We could teach our church the effort that goes into creating and raising food, of the patience and perseverance it requires. We could teach people how to grow their own food. And then when we harvest the food, there are all sorts of possibilities: selling at a local farmer’s market, selling it on our front lawn, giving it away to needy families, or using it as ingredients for my next idea, below. Now, I know absolutely nothing about growing my own food, but I’m sure there is someone in our church who does.
- Cooking – I love cooking, and have done many events with our youth group where they cook their own meals. Cooking is such a great discipline to learn. It saves money over restaurants, it is often healthier than eating out or micro-waving food, and you get to participate in the creative process required to make food worth eating. And, you can probably find a job cooking somewhere if you are decent at it. So, I’ve thought about how we could use cooking to serve our community. The first option would obviously be to simply cook for our community and provide low-cost or free meals. The second would be to teach people how to cook in order to help them save money and get healthy. Unfortunately, our church’s kitchen facilities are lacking, so we’d have to get creative with this idea.
- Free Financial Services & Counseling – Anyone can get money help and advice if they want to pay for it. But in today’s economy more people need the help and less are able to afford it. Simple things like budgeting could turn a family’s world around. Our church is full of successful business people; surely we have the competence to help our neighborhood get their financial lives under control.
- After School Programs – I see kids wandering around the neighborhood outside our church all the time after school. I’m guessing that their parents are working, and I wonder how many of them could use help with their homework. We have a decent number of teachers and bright students who thrive in the educational arena. Perhaps we could offer tutoring services after school. And then during the summer, we could host sports camps to get kids ready for sports tryouts in the fall.
- Transitional Housing – This would be a huge undertaking, but I’ve recently been trying to help a family transition from living in a hotel (they’ve been there for two months now) to living in an apartment or house. It seems that the family has turned their life around, but they meet almost none of the qualifications for most apartment applications. But they are spending between $800-$1,000 a month on a hotel room, so surely they can afford a simple $500 apartment. It would be great to provide an avenue for people to be able to get out of this cycle that keeps them shelling out more money than they need to. I’m not exactly sure how to do it, but this has been on my mind lately.
- Resume Services and Job Help – How hard would it be to offer help for people looking for a job? Gather a group of business people in a room for a couple of hours a week, conduct mock interviews, proofread resumes, network, or give ideas for people wanting to open their own business. I think we have qualified people in our church who could pull something like this off.
- Computer Skills Courses – Being proficient with a computer is a must in today’s world. Helping people to increase their skills and stay abreast of the latest software and techniques might give them an edge as they search for jobs.
Those are some of the ideas I have. Part of my problem is that I’m paralyzed by my options. I want to do it all, and so I do nothing. The lesson here is to listen to what really drives me the most and then go for it. What about you? What can your church do in its local context to serve your community? What are some great ideas I’m leaving out?