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Building the Love Avenue

Here are some practical steps shared by pastors and Love Avenue champions for building the Love Avenue in your congregation or fellowship group.

Role of the Pastor: Linda Sitterley – Pastor, Junction City, OR

  • Recognize that all members of your congregation/group have gifts for ministry. God is faithful and has given each member a gift; there are no exceptions.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… All these are empowered by the one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11 ESV)

  • The members have different gifts – we are not clones of each other. Help your members discover their gifts by talking to them about their passions, what they enjoy doing, what blesses them while participating.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. (Romans 6:8 ESV)

  • The different gifts come to life in the context of the whole. Much can be accomplished when we encourage members, and when they use the gifts they’ve been given.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace… in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV)

  • Discuss the following with your teams:
    • How do we best use the gifts God has given us?
    • How do we support the Love Avenue and be missional to our church neighborhood?
    • How do we best support the Love Avenue champion?

Mapping Your Neighborhood: Dishon Mills – Church Planter, Charlotte, NC

  • Discern what God is doing. Gather a small group of missional minded members in your congregation to pray and do the mapping. Look around and see what God is already doing in your neighborhood. What needs are being met by other groups? What needs still need to be met? Ask God where he desires your participation.
  • Learn about the characteristics of your neighborhood and your neighbors. Get out and talk to people. Ask them their stories. Ask what they look for in a church. Visit the parks and sports activities. Be an active participant in neighborhood events.
  • Learn the rhythms of your neighbors. What is important to them? How do they spend their evenings? Their weekends?
  • Discover the assets and needs of your community. Talk to non-profit organizations, community police officers, local business owners, school administrators to discern more about your neighborhood. What are the strengths? What are the challenges? How can your group be of service?
  • Participate in your neighborhood. Coach a sport, tutor students, join a local board, volunteer at a non-profit, attend town/city council meetings.
  • Identify your target audience. Observe and pray, seeking where the Holy Spirit is leading your group to serve the community. Identify who you can serve and how you can serve.
  • Discuss the following with your teams:
    • Are we falling in love with our neighborhood?
    • How well do we know our neighbors? Are we connected with them?
    • What are some first steps we can do to help us learn more about our neighbors?

Making Friends in Your Neighborhood: Tamar Gray – Pastor, Cleveland, OH

  • Never forget who is in you – Jesus – and he loves the people in your neighborhood. So pray, asking him to help you have his love for others. Ask him to lead you to someone who needs a friend, needs some attention, needs to know they are valuable.
  • Be genuine. People need to know you are interested in them as a person and that you care about them, not about filling a seat in your congregation.
  • Don’t rush; making friends takes time. Relationships are built over time, can get messy, can be challenging and inconvenient, but so rewarding.
  • Do not fear mistakes. Don’t be afraid you will say something wrong, that someone won’t like you, or that you aren’t “friendship material.” You are a beloved child of God and sharing his love and life with someone else is always worthwhile.
  • People need friends. They may resist initially or be suspicious of your intentions. But keep showing up, keep caring, and keep smiling. If nothing else, you are letting them know you care enough to keep smiling and keep showing up in the neighborhood.
  • Expect to see Jesus in your encounters. This is another opportunity to practice place-sharing.
  • Discuss with your teams:
    • Why should we make friends in the neighborhood?
    • How do we best represent Jesus in our neighborhood?
    • How can we join in with what is already happening in the neighborhood?
    • What is the best way to start?

Role of the Love Avenue Champion: Terri Westerhaus – Love Avenue Champion, Cincinnati, OH

  • Characteristics of a Love Avenue champion:
    • Being organized
    • Having a love for people
    • Having a heart for evangelism
  • The champion looks for and creates spaces for the congregation/fellowship group to engage and share the love of Christ with their target neighborhood.
  • Develops new leaders
  • Looks for ways to connect with Hope and Faith Avenues in the congregation
  • Oversees the team that coordinates neighborhood engagement events.
    • One coordinating mapping the neighborhood
    • One coordinating making friends in the neighborhood
    • One coordinating connecting church and community with a variety of activities
  • Focuses on team care:
    • Pray together
    • Dine together
    • Be in a small group together
  • Discuss with your teams:
    • What are some best practices for building the Love Avenue team?
    • What is the next step for making us a stronger team?
    • How do we connect with the Hope and Faith Avenues?

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