Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. With so much pain in the world it can be overwhelming to reach all of those in need in our communities. So how do you, as a pastor or follower of Christ, ensures that the least of these are being cared for?
The answer is: with intentionality. One of our core beliefs at the Vineyard is:
We lean toward the lost, the poor, the outcast, and the outsider with the compassion of Jesus as sinners whose only standing before God is utterly dependent on the mercy of God. This mercy can only be truly received inasmuch as we are willing to give it away.
Serving the neediest of the needy can be an overwhelming task. This task can, and should, be done as a movement of the body of Christ. Find the leaders that can plug into community areas that need attention. Also, don’t be afraid to use leaders who are working in secular fields. They may have a better understanding of local issues than you do.
If you are struggling to find ways to serve your community, or narrow down where to start, here are three easy steps to discern your local community needs:
1. Evaluate. What are you doing right now within your church body to support those in need? Is it working? What is your church family telling you they need (besides prayer!)?
For example, our RBV Kids Pastor, Niki Wolter, noticed a rise in kids with disabilities and behavior issues attending church services. As you may be aware, most of our Sunday School teachers are volunteers and do not have backgrounds in child development! But one of our team members knew someone who did have a background in child development and specifically disabilities and behaviors. A connection was made and Pastor Nikki invited the specialist to come to a team meeting to give ideas on how to work with kids with special needs.
2. Review. Look at what your local community is telling you is a need.
Check out local community needs assessments through your local Head Start program, Community Action Agency, Public Health Department or hospital. They are required to provide this information and are typically targeting the low income population which tends to have higher needs. Also, take note of what keeps coming up on the local news or during conversations. These issues may not be in a local community needs assessments but are impactful in other ways.
3. Act. Join a local club like Kiwanis or the Chamber of Commerce.
Meet with local leaders about what they feel are the needs facing your local community and then ask how your church family can support efforts. In my hometown, the local churches, regardless of denomination, come together once a month and serve individuals and families with specific needs. For example, they helped clean up a family’s home that had caught fire and ensured that the family had their basic needs met.
Serving our communities, as Jesus asked us to, does not, and should not, be done in a vacuum. We live in a very connected world where the hurting seem to spring up more and more frequently. We shouldn’t silo ourselves in attempts to aid those in need and more importantly, pastors should also not silo themselves in the work. Working in community, for the community, is how we tackle these issues and provide concrete examples of the love of Jesus Christ. Together, as a team. Be the hands and feet of Jesus.
So, what are you going to do today to show the love of Jesus to those in need in your local community?
- Jennifer Torres