Dan Kimball: "We don't just want our community to know we like art or music — we want to inspire them to follow Christ."
There’s a lot of language being tossed around today like “missional,” “missional communities,” “incarnational,” “be the church vs. go to church” and other words that describe a certain ministry philosophy. When I ask what all of this means, it is often described as making sure you intentionally get to know your church’s neighbors and serve their needs. I can’t imagine Jesus not being pleased with this, but as a church leader what do these terms mean about truly being engaged in your community as a whole church? How is it expressed?
We’ve used our building to host moms for auto repair, family photos and a clothing boutique. And we’ve assisted others in need through our campus—but we also felt some engagement was missing. What about our vibrant local arts and music community? Or students from the nearby university?
A Cup of Joe
Students need a place to study. Bands need a place to play. Artists need a gallery to display art. So we decided to open a full-service coffeehouse that would welcome students and provide space for art and music shows. In the few years since launching the coffeehouse, it has won several awards and is well known in our town. We don’t kick out students if they don’t order drinks, and we offer unlimited Internet usage. During finals week, we serve free pancakes to students and open the church sanctuary as overflow study space.
As we serve our community, we build trust. After all, people who visit the coffeehouse are also visiting our church.
As an extension of this we started the annual Santa Cruz Stations of the Cross art exhibit downtown to engage the community and represent Jesus right on the sidewalks. A city block displays art that tells the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Once again, our town witnesses a church that wants to build trust and relationship with them.
We are currently building a professional music studio on the church campus for training area children and teens in music. We plan to host a local film festival as well. Engage. Relationship. Trust.
Finding the Right Link
None of this required a big budget but it did command us to think uniquely about how to connect with our community on its own terms. If we were in rural Oklahoma, for example, our outreach would probably look a lot different. But in our northern California college town, these approaches successfully mesh ministry with community and create relationship.
Of course all of this goes beyond baristas and bands. We don’t just want our community to know we like art or music—we want to inspire them to follow Christ. Just two weeks ago I talked to a college student who began visiting the church for the coffeehouse. Then she started wondering what happens in that sanctuary on Sundays, so she joined us for worship. Not long after, she put her faith in Jesus.
Because we’ve chosen ministries that closely match the fabric of our community, we get the opportunity to interact with our neighbors in non-threatening ways on a daily basis. Through that engagement, we forge the relationships that blossom into growth for the Kingdom.