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Relate to your community

This article is from Grant Forsyth, GCI Pastor in Kenockee, Michigan. 

Grant and Kathy Forsyth

Last January, a member of the local farm museum event committee called. She said they were planning the museum’s annual late summer event (one that draws a couple thousand visitors to a celebration of the history of farming and rural life). She then said that the committee wanted me to conduct the event’s church service, held in the historic church on the museum grounds. I asked, “Are you sure you want me to do it again?” (I was glad to oblige, but didn’t want to deny the opportunity to someone else). She paused, then answered emphatically “I would love for you to do it!” So, I accepted.

Why was the committee asking me? The woman who called was the one recommending me to the committee, but, as I later learned, she had never heard me speak! I’ve been recommended for funerals by community leaders, who also had never heard me speak. How does that happen?

Think about how many times you have heard GCI leaders, writers and speakers tell us as churches and pastors to “get out there and get into your community!” What, exactly, does that mean? I can only answer what it has meant to us and tell you how we have taken on that challenge. It’s been a process for us that has taken time, care and persistence. Here’s what we’ve done:

  1. We’ve been intentional about getting involved in our community. As a congregation, we send volunteers to help at annual community events. They love it when we send people to sell tickets, set up and take down, staff concession stands, etc. We wear our church T-shirts (neon lime!) at these events—folks see us everywhere!

During those community events, I get to have one-on-one conversations with event coordinators and workers. They get to know you and you get to know them. You are no longer a fearful creature! They might even get to like you! Trust begins to build; you and the church receive a good reputation—maybe even to the point where you are invited to perform a church service when the need arises!

  1. We’ve taken steps to be known by our local government. Our township board knows us. The assistant pastor (Jimmie Meade) and I are known by name. Jimmie serves on township committees because he lives there. Our leaders know our church by name.  We have a good reputation and they tell us that we are the first ones they think of when a need arises where a church is needed. This is a great feeling!

I realize that each church and pastor will have different experiences when it comes to relating to their community. However, I have found that the above approaches have yielded amazing results. I pray that what I’ve shared here will help you and spur ideas and thoughts for you that result in you becoming well-known in your community.

Here is the historic church in Goodells Park, MI, where I was asked to preach.
Here’s a picture of the service underway.               

2 thoughts on “Relate to your community”

  1. Thank you, Grant, for blessing us with these experiences and points. So often, our small churches feel unable to be known in our larger communities (25 people in a city of 100,000? You must be kidding!). Your experiences show that the principles work, even when there are larger churches around. (We’ve been serving for a year at a local elementary school, and have seen some relationships begin as a result.) God’s blessings on you!

  2. Hi Grant. Your words are to me an encouraging story. To be his light wherever we are, whatever we are doing. Then to have a care for the locals and be ready to fill a need, and get others to come alongside you in filling that need. Neon lime shirts with ID too… I love that element.
    As for me, I am alone, (but for an 87 yo lady). So, alone, and wearing a plain bright yellow highly visible safety shirt I regularly pick up the street and park rubbish. God willing soon the shirt will have on the back, “For the betterment of Bligh Park” (suburb), and locals will soon be invited to join us in sundry activities. (We already have an incorporated body among residents with that registered mission, “For the betterment of Bligh Park”). The next meeting has the local council’s community officer joining us. Who can prophesy what all of this community engagement will lead to?

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