Usually when I ask a question on social media, I expect a decent number of responses. Church leaders and members are typically gracious to me and share their opinions readily.
But when I asked a question about the reputation of their churches in the community, I was inundated with responses. Many wanted to share the good and the bad. Perhaps the most intriguing facet of the study was the three distinct groups in which the responses fell.
The question was simple: “What is your church known for in its community?” Within a few minutes of my post, many responses came forth. After I read and added all of them, I saw three patterns emerge.
1. About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself.
Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture. These are all great responses, but they require the community to come to the church. If community members do not set foot on the church’s campus, they will never know about the ministries of the church. For the majority of the churches, the idea of community ministry is “you come to us.”
2. About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community.
Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on. It was exciting to read how many churches demonstrate their love for their community by actually going into the community.
3. About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons.
Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness. One church leader said his church was known for two murders that occurred a few years apart on the church site. Ouch.
The social media poll did encourage me in many ways. Many of our churches are doing an incredible job connecting with and ministering to the communities in which they are located. And though I am certainly glad to see many church members excited about what is taking place on their church campuses, I fear many members think that community ministry means, “Y’all come to us, and we will minister to you.”
Of course, I am concerned, but not necessarily surprised, about the negative perceptions of some churches in the community. I pray those churches will begin to make a positive impact in the locations where they serve.
What is your church known for in the community? What are your members actually doing in the community and for the community?
Thom Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com