• Community Stations Portable Faith by Sarah Cunningham

Community Stations: An Idea for Focusing on the People Who Share Your Community

Rachel, a commenter on last week’s Portable Faith post, reminded me of something:

All churches “get” that we are a gathering of people who live out faith rather than just a group of people who get together at a building one hour a week each Sunday.

But getting that on paper and living it out, as Rachel points out below, can be two very different things:

Community Stations Portable Faith by Sarah Cunningham

Here’s an excerpt from the book where I realized we, as people of faith, sometimes default to designing church solely for the people already INSIDE the building.

The more I thought about the verbiage we lived out as churches, the more intensely I squinted at one of the core values of my own local church which proclaimed “All People Matter to God.”

All people. Inside the church, outside the church. People like the majority, people unlike the majority. All of them.

I was sure in my soul this was right. That all people mattered to God. Though I wasn’t sure churches always knew exactly how to demonstrate how much we, and our God, valued the residents of our communities.

In my own small city, estimates claimed …about 16 percent of residents were thought to have a regular connection to a local Christian congregation. Churches, of course, knew how to demonstrate this 16 percent mattered. We spent all week crafting sermon series, designing graphics, churning out bulletins, creating children’s programming, and hosting events for the one out of six people who would be inside our buildings each week.

But was this 16 percent supposed to be the only or even main group we intentionally built relationship with? And what was the best way to divide our focus between the one out of six people who showed up on Sundays wanting to know Jesus and the five-sixths of our local “world” who we were specifically told to “go” to?

This of course is part of the timeless challenge the church or any institution faces. How do you rotate multiple priorities–church and community, coming and going, infrastructure and vitality–around the burners with enough regularity to keep every pan warm? Nevertheless, this challenge of learning to practice a more portable faith, individually and as a church, gripped me.

In Portable Faith (pick up the book here), there are 33 exercises aimed at raising awareness about the people who live in our communities and moving toward more connectedness with them. Last week, I highlighted one exercise aimed at forcing reflection on what it would be like to operate as a building-less church.

Another idea the book shares is using meeting time (i.e. Sunday mornings for most of us) as a time to reflect on the presence of those outside our building who share our communities.

One (of many) super simple ways you could do this?

A few times a year, create “community stations” in your sanctuary using tables displaying items like local newspapers, city phone books, photos, directories of school staff or city personnel, calendars and so forth. Then, during the service, invite people to these stations and ask them to spend a few minutes reflecting on or praying for the people and groups represented by the information.

The book then suggests:

Invite participants to take their newspaper page or other resource home and use it as a reminder to pray throughout the week. Also to build more awarness, suggest that in the future, when they look at a phonebook or a newspaper, the visual can be a reminder to live out faith beyond the church walls in their community.

How do you think church attenders would react to such an exercise if it were presented during a worship service? Is there another time or place (the lobby or a weeknight service) that might be more appropriate? Do you think this would be a helpful way of raising awareness about the church’s embedded-ness within the community? What else do you do to keep your congregation’s eyes turned outward?



  • comment-avatar
    Dennis April 8, 2013 (12:36 pm)

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m sorry to tell you this. It feels just like a system to follow to get results to get more people into church.
    I don’t get it….

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 8, 2013 (12:41 pm)

    @dennis I’m glad you said that. If we just create systems to replace other mechanisms, you’re right. We’re no further forward.

    Hoping that as you see the rest unfold, something in the series will make sense in a bigger way than what you’ve seen so far.

    We all, for example, know the deep impact that a person can experience when they go overseas to do relief or mission work short-term. They come back with a gift they didn’t have before that opens their eyes to new things in their own world: namely perspective.

    But we can’t get every person on an international flight to some developing country (and maybe we shouldn’t). So what small things can we do to begin to invite people to shift their awareness to see differently? I think this might be one small part of that.

    But yes, you’re right, stuff like this alone–without prompting heart change or genuine relationship–is like any other poorly-motived religious act: empty.

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    Todd April 8, 2013 (12:58 pm)

    Once again, this is a great process being discussed.
    From a logistical standpoint, I believe the most apt time for such an activity as this would be on a Sunday evening (or some less “formal” worship time) at the end of Summer. I think at the core many of us, even those who are not parents or have children in school anymore, care tremendously about the children in our schools. The “back to school” timeframe seems like an ideal point for the connection reminder to our community.
    As a new high school was being built down the road from our facility, we engaged in conversation with their administrators. We became their emergency meeting point, in the case of some disastrous event, and encouraged the growth of their Christian community through meeting and praying with the leader of their “Fellowship of Christian Athletes” group.
    Sadly, when the relationships became too distant, so did the intentionality of prayer. Based on our experience here, and other more positive experiences I have enjoyed in working with homeless shelters and feeding programs (off-site), presence seems to be the key.
    I believe that trying to cover an entire community is overwhelming, but picking places/groups to target is completely doable for any church. A colleague of mine in ministry worked to build a relationship network for our church that spanned the zip code that surrounded us. We tried to invest in the schools, invite the community for neighborhood events, and share the love of Christ in a variety of different ways. While the immediate results don’t blow you away, investing in any community is a long-term approach that you might personally never know the bounty of harvest from.

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    Ray Hollenbach April 8, 2013 (1:11 pm)

    “How do you think church attenders would react to such an exercise if it were presented during a worship service?” ~ I can understand why people like Dennis (above) might be discouraged. In the exercise you suggest, I think some small minority (earnest and eager) would certainly take items home and pray, while the majority (trained by many years of consumerism in the church) would consider the exercise “interesting,” or “a nice change of pace,” but would have trouble applying the exercise to themselves.

    “What else do you do to keep your congregation’s eyes turned outward?” ~ Let me share with you about one pastor I know who began to turn the tide of inactivity in his congregation. This pastor cut his sermon time by 10-15 minutes each week and made room for an interview. Each week someone from the congregation would be interviewed about how their faith found expression in their work: One woman taught G.E.D. classes for the school system, and found herself becoming involved in the lives of these non-traditional students. One businessman shared his vision that providing jobs for others was his Christian mission to bless the city. Another person talked about “Treasure Hunts” at WalMart, where she would walk the aisles of WalMart, asking God who she should approach and pray for–the “treasure” was the person in need.

    Meanwhile, the pastor preached all year (on again, off again) that his job was to minister to the congregation, but their job was to minister to the city. He used the interviews to underscore the fact people need not wait for a church-sponsored program, but in fact could better minister to the city by seeing opportunities where they lived, worked, or went to school. So, by trading pulpit time for interview time, he celebrated the “spiritual” work of “normal people.” Others in the congregation began to see a model for what was possible in their context. It took a year, but the church began to see people mobilize, and began to experience growth via new conversions to Jesus.

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    danielle Williams April 8, 2013 (1:16 pm)

    Oh i love this. For too long has the church locked itself within the walls of a building. We cant help the people we can’t reach. If God loves everyone and already paifnthe price for our freedom what are we afraid of? I believe dealing with people takes us out of our comfort zone, and lets be honest some of us need to come out.
    Sunday service is the best time. That when you have most of your people in one place. The truth is not everyone wants to be apart of a church with no walls. There are people that will jump at this opportunity.
    My church…the fathers house believe we are here to serve our community any way we can.

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    Sarah April 8, 2013 (1:22 pm)

    @Todd, love the relationship you developed with a school. I hope that is the sort of thing that becomes the “outflow” (end product) of the variety of things we do to raise awareness about those living in our community.

    @Ray Consumerism. Ugh. I get that. And when I started doing these exercises, there were certainly plenty of people who gave it the “interesting” nod. My hope is when we regularly integrate practices and teaching and behaviors that focus outward, eventually we invite many people to transition beyond “doing an exercise” to responding to the community with different eyes. I think the 10-15 minute sermon is another beautiful act of intentionality aimed at this and I wish (wish, wish, wish) all pastors told their congregations their job was to minister to the city. Imagine how many ministers would be engaging the public then… =)

    @danielle Thanks for your enthusiasm. It’s interesting that we hold so many ideals, on paper–and even in our hearts–but sometimes lack the practical tools to take those first steps.

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    Eric Haynes April 8, 2013 (1:23 pm)

    We’ve done similar things throughout the years, the most recent being a service where we put up large maps of our area and had people pray for the homes in those areas and commit to “prayer walking” their neighborhoods. We also talk a lot about how to share your faith where you “work, live and play” in an effort to show people that less than 10% of people will ever walk in our doors, no matter how welcoming our services are, so we have to go out into the community, meeting needs, sharing our stories, and to pray.

    But I would also say that Christ gave most of his time coaching a select few, for the purpose of sending THEM out into the community. Any given person can’t reach all people, so we do spend a lot of time helping people on this side of faith be equipped to go and reach those yet to know Christ, whether at their workplaces, their neighborhoods, or schools. While we don’t want to avoid going into the community as an organizational group, we also don’t want to encourage the mentality that reaching the lost is an organizational responsibility and not a personal commission.

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    Vicki Hanes April 8, 2013 (1:25 pm)

    Hi Sarah

    I’m not sure we would do this during a service as we really gear Sunday toward people who don’t regularly attend a church. I would think a first-time visitor could find this a little strange that someone is looking over their address or street and praying for them. I could see it being interpreted in two ways, one being positive, the other negative. They could see it as care and concern or as a self-righteous belief that only those outside of the church need prayer.

    The reason why I have this concern is I had a college instructor once inform a group of teacher-credential candidates, “Do you know there are people out there praying for you?” as if it was a negative, self-righteous act.

    However, I also believe awareness of those already on the “inside” is really important. Familiarity can leave us with blinders and therefore we need to constantly try to look at things from a perspective other than our own.

    I think it is a great exercise for a small group. I had a conversation with some members of our church and we were discussing how we often have an empty auditorium up to a few minutes before the service begins and how awkward that might be if you are new and sitting inside. They instantly said, “I never thought about that.” They then spoke to people in their small groups about this great opportunity to minister to others in a really simple way–being on time. We had more people inside the auditorium as a result. The energy was better and I’m sure made it a little more comfortable for someone who has never been to church before. Awareness was the key in that scenario.

    We discuss as a team even the language we use and we look at music and media elements for Christian terms that might not be readily accessible. We either avoid or try to create context.

    Ultimately you have to do what you are called to do and what fits the context of your community. For us, that would probably mean doing this in small groups rather than in a worship service.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 8, 2013 (1:51 pm)

    @Eric, I share another exercise like the one you described as well. I’m thankful you’re thinking about how this would or wouldn’t apply given your church’s vision. I tend to think that going to the community has both personal and corporate implications. Do you think the church might benefit from exercise like this that develop a person’s awareness and response related to this personal commission?

    @Vicki, I agree that not every church’s services are well-designed for these opportunities. If services are geared toward those outside the church, then you’re right, these kinds of activities are irrelevant to their introductions to the faith. Good point.

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    Benji April 8, 2013 (2:00 pm)

    I love this exercise and I think it would be a phenomenal element to integrate into a weekend! As a former road manager, I can say that most churches are not logistically set-up to handle a people flow to do something like this. I know our church would have to facilitiate this in a seperate facility or outside, but it is definitely worth thinking through.

    Honestly, we are working on something similar to this for January of 2014 in regards to Sex Trafficking and what can be done here in Las Vegas as well as around the globe with our strategic partnerships. My wheels are turning. I look forward to reading others ideas and responses.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 8, 2013 (2:17 pm)

    @benji So what’s going on with the Sex Trafficking emphasis? Would love to hear more about that…

    • comment-avatar
      Benji April 14, 2013 (1:34 pm)

      The leadership of our church are tired of awareness campaigns and we want to start to give people options on practical action steps they can take. So we are working with the local court system for aftercare kits, working with IJM for email/call your senator on trafficking bills, providing a seminar on the signs of sex trafficking (70% of las vegas victims are local girls who were plucked out of local schools and turned around and pimped here!) as well as an international trip to Cambodia to work with a restoration house.

      Trying to put together something that people can do more than just hear a sermon. . .

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    Hilary April 8, 2013 (5:20 pm)

    It would not be an exercise that would be well-received during a worship service at my church. But as I wrote in my comment on last week’s exercise, as a parish we are aware of our tendency to look inward rather than outward – and we are working on it. Our deacon writes our intercessory prayers each week and makes an effort to be inclusive. Personally, I find intercessory prayer very powerful.

    I often find myself thinking of the words of Angela d’Merici who challenged her followers to make the church like a piazza. A place that as Tracey Lind has written is “open, gracious, hospitable, playful, restful, and engaged in the world.” It focuses on hospitality, where all are welcome – a gathering place. As an urban planner, I love the imagery of a piazza that’s open and welcoming, but also allows people to come and go.

    I wanted to make the point that it’s important to be prepared that in reaching out like this (or even simply reaching out in prayer), one might find people or groups which whom you are uncomfortable. Maybe uncomfortable from a societal standpoint or those who have a fundamentally different belief system that you have. Pope Francis was recently denounced in some traditionalist circles for washing the feet of women and Muslims in his Maundy Thursday service. But I think about that act in terms of the people which whom Christ surrounded himself – tax collectors, prostitutes, and children for example – people who were shunned by polite society back then. Yet isn’t Francis’ symbolic act doing the same thing? Do you acknowledge that people outside your church community are also important and valuable members of the larger community – even though they are so different? Or do I misunderstand the point of this exercise?

    • comment-avatar
      Hilary April 8, 2013 (5:26 pm)

      That should have been “groups WITH whom you are uncomfortable.” Oops.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 8, 2013 (5:38 pm)

    @Hilary, you’re dead on. You could be writing this series for me.

    Love your Angela d’Merici references, the church as the piazza, and Tracey Lind quote. And yes, I believe the book says almost verbatim about the path to the Great Commission inevitably running through people unlike ourselves.

    Uncomfortable or not, we learn to love our world.

    Thanks for sharing again. :)

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    Michele April 8, 2013 (6:11 pm)

    I think our church has made a real effort to look outside our walls. We took our annual church picnic and turned it outward…it’s for the whole surrounding neighborhoods. We do all the work…games…food…prizes..etc. and we invite the neighborhoods to come all for free. It’s been well received and people have actually come to church and recieved the Lord because of it.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 9, 2013 (9:05 am)

    @Michele, that is really great. I love hearing what other churches are doing. I might have to talk to you more about the picnic too. Good stuff. :)

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    Josh Cooper April 9, 2013 (1:12 pm)

    Hi Sarah.
    Our church is not unfamiliar with prayer stations though I must admit we do not incorporate them regularly mostly because our worship gatherings are bent toward those who do not regularly attend so that they do become regular attenders and ultimately, Christ followers. I suspect that the reaction would be mixed. Some would find the exercise incredibly powerful while others, eh, not so much. However, I do believe that there is value in experimentation. I mentioned a book in my comments last week called, “Practicing the Way of Jesus,” where the author advocates for experimentation. Our attenders’ perceptions may change if they know ahead of time that we’re experimenting…or trying something new…or just this is just a one time thing.

    There are a couple of things that immediately come to mind in response to your question about keeping the eyes of the church focused outward. The first is that words are incredibly powerful. So when we welcome everyone on a Sunday morning, we don’t say: “Welcome TO Compass Church…we’re so glad you are here!” because we don’t want to reinforce the idea that the church is a place that people go. We want them to know that they are already the church. So what we say up front is incredibly important. Second, experimentation has been helpful. A couple of examples may help here – one of our goals as a church is to give 20% of our general fund to local and global partnerships by 2016. This money would come in and go right back out in to the community and the world. We want to communicate the message that God is generous in giving to us and we want to reflect His generosity to others. We’re not where we want to be, but we are getting there.

    Another example of experimentation is that we changed our communication cards (think “friendship pad”). The cards are large and we used to include “Next Steps To Take This Week” which was custom-taylored to the sermon and included different components: Read – Pray – Do. Read John 3…Pray for friends or family to receive Christ…Do: Who is one person you know that needs to hear this story? Tell them.

    Okay, so I wrote a lot more than I thought I would. I have a lot of other things that we’ve tried, but I’ll mention one last thing. Two years ago, we went through an intensive self-study by participating in the Willow Creek Reveal Study. I suggest doing an in depth study of your congregation’s spiritual disciplines and practices. Get a base line of where people are at and then set goals. Looking at the reflection in the mirror was a humbling experience that motivated our church to make changes and experiment more often.


  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 9, 2013 (2:11 pm)

    @Josh, I love that you are being intentional about speech. There is a section in the book about this and I wish I had this example before it went to print. I may want to talk more to you later along these lines.

    Thanks for the great reflection and ideas.

  • comment-avatar
    Cammie April 9, 2013 (4:32 pm)

    Love it! I think it would be a great reminder and would be well-received in 2 of our 3 services. The traditional service is just learning how to handle more experiential elements in their worship time.

    We have used leadership development time to bring in agencies and nonprofits from our community and have them share their stories and their needs. We then had them set up tables with info and we had an exercise for our leaders to go and connect and find a place to plug into. We followed that with a day of serving at some of the agencies. I know there were connections made that are still in place. We also ask our small groups to commit to serving in the community with some frequency.

    I may totally steal the idea for a kid worship response station…..wheels are spinning!

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah April 9, 2013 (6:46 pm)

    @Cammie I like the idea of bringing in agencies and non-profits. So good. Also in serving with them following their presentations.

    Do the stations with the kids for sure. There’s another exercise in the book that involves standing on a giant map which might be even better. You’ll see soon enough… =)

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    Wes April 10, 2013 (1:01 pm)

    Hello, Sarah, and everyone else!

    Good comments–gets the gears going. Vicki first touched upon what I was going to mention, that of outward-focus not trumping inward-focus (or vice-versa). Newcomers may not be ready to go outward.

    As I read through all these comments, it seems like one thing keeps becoming more clear, which is that, as hard as it may be to function without a “system”, we really need to follow the Spirit. Outward churches miss newcomers, inward churches miss outsiders. The self-evaluating, Willow Creek reflection questions, then, seem *very* appropriate, and churches should ask themselves whether they are inward or outward (or both–or neither!) and see where they need to strengthen/realign themselves.

    The military school chapel I attend right now has it’s focus primarily on the students at the military school. Not much else “outside” is going on, and that’s on purpose, because the purpose of this chapel fellowship body is for the military students.

    The mega church I attended before this was very outward (and inward), and they would have video-clip presentations/music for the outward events that HAD been done in the community already. These were relatively short, and, personally, I found them very inspirational–to the point that I wanted to participate next time. The church is/was a little consumeristic, perhaps mostly because of location, but they regularly, from the “pulpit” (stage) strongly encouraged people to get involved–with anything. Man, I think they have their act together! I really loved that church.

    The interview idea that Ray mentioned above is cool. The experimentation that Josh mentioned above is cool. The piazza Hilary mentioned is cool. Good stuff.

    • comment-avatar
      Sarah April 10, 2013 (3:38 pm)

      Wes, thanks for your balanced response which took so many other great comments into consideration. I think of this book as a bit of the experience we had at the Olive Branch, Wes (Wes and I met while studying and living at a homeless shelter in south Chicago in college). What happened in our hearts and minds was organic, stirred by spirit you might say, but what prompted it was an intentional shift of attention…a rise in awareness toward the diverse groups in the world around us.

  • Don't Try to Be Shane Claiborne April 10, 2013 (6:58 pm)

    […] read the post about a specific exercise (involving the use of stations in a worship or other service) that could be used to help nurture a […]

  • comment-avatar
    Rick Nier April 11, 2013 (9:11 pm)

    I like this idea. I honestly think our church people would like it….that is, I think at least half our church would like it. We have plenty of people who are always looking for more and better ways to make their faith real and practical.

    On the other hand, there are others who would wonder what happened to the traditional order of service. I think this group might react, similar to wallflowers in a youth group. They would smile and nod at you while trying their best to remain un-involved.

    This reminds me of another book we have had some groups reading, where a similar focus was given to reaching the community. The wrinkle in that book was that they would close up the service for a Sunday and actually go out to those places to serve.

    Whether it’s serving on a Sunday, or looking for opportunities throughout the week, I think there will always be some who prefer to stay on the sidelines. I think the goal should be to forge ahead. God things will happen and then the fire will spread.

    This is a good exercise.

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    Krista April 12, 2013 (7:56 pm)

    First, I love this post because it shows the exact struggle I have every day in my job at the church… This balancing act is a difficult one!

    In terms of the stations, I actually think my church community would do a fantastic job with it and really gravitate towards that type of exercise. They tend to be a fairly hands on group when things are placed in front of them. However, that being said, I think that it would really only work the way we want it to for the visual and kinesthetic learners because they would get to see the things going on in our local and regional communities, and they would get to get their hands on something and take things home to help remind them.

    We have two services Sunday morning and a Thursday service that would serve as a fantastic platform for this type of exercise, however, our Wednesday evening programming would not work at all for something like this, so we realistically would have to stick to service times.

    We might also get a decent response if we created an electronic version of this and sent it out in our newsletter as well, we have a fairly high open rate for our newsletter.

    The only thing that I would probably change in the stations idea is to have each station manned by a person who would be the contact person for whatever the opportunity, ministry, etc.. And, I would do my absolute best to ensure that the contact person was passionate about their station’s purpose and ministry. The reason being is I would be very leary of it being just “another” thing we were doing that allowed people to be passive and fulfill their obligation of “being involved” without actually getting out and doing anything. Whereas if a person at the station was passionate about this ministry, it would allow for them to truly engage and cultivate relationships with people, and use that to pull them in.

    Our church has had a huge push over the last year in a half of getting out of our church building and “GOing” whether locally, regionally or globally. We have had dinners, directories, announcements, events, small groups, e-mails, social media etc.. that have all created a place and time for people to at the very least become more aware of what there is to get involved in. We also in general have really been trying to create space for people to plug in where they are passionate, curious, feeling called/pushed. But, we have also been working to empower people to take initiative and pursue what makes their heart sing. We firmly believe that if everything is created or the opportunities are all presented and prepared by staff or the leadership of the church, we are doing a serious disservice to our congregation because they are not learning how to see need and pursue it.

    One thing is certain though, it takes a multi-faceted approach, and the process can be daunting and draining. However, it is an absolute necessity to go through the difficult process of training and empowering people to reach out, but, it is all worth it in the end if more people encounter Jesus.

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    Teresa B Pasquale April 13, 2013 (3:57 pm)

    There are so many angles of this that are interesting to me.

    One reflection is that there is a delicate balance to be made between one dimensional outward prayer which prays for people from a place of pity, that they are not part of the insider crew in the pew; so I think the key is making the people in community outside the church more than one dimesional so it is engaging with, rather than (what can unintentionally happen) looking down on by way of prayer (depending on how entrenched and inward a church community can be that will be more or less likely).

    Another reflection is being engaged in community outside without, like one commenter said, it being a marketing ploy to bring people in but rather a way to engage honestly and authentically without agenda with those in community from a place of living the prayer/preaching as Francis said, “preach always, use words when necessary,” and live from a space of contemplative and caring action and engagement with community to learn who they are rather than make them who we are.

    I think every church community struggles at different levels with engagement of community “outside” and trying to remain both in the world of church and reverent to the world of humanity that exists everywhere.

    Something fun that I have really loved in my worship community is bringing in guest speakers/teachers/preachers for our Sunday night worship both from other Episcopal communities, other denominations, other faiths and then just justice/service community organizations to connect the community inside with all that is grace outside the walls and pews (well ours are seats around a large dinner table but all the same).

    It has been a very exciting way for me to see the worship community experience and then dialogue with the world. I wish we could do that in ALL our worship services.

    That said, my church is very good at engaging in both dialogues, causes, and service projects with other faith communities (other christian denominations and other religions) including addressing gun violence, a project to give voice to human trafficking, family promise where faith communities house homeless families in a rotation throughout the year on their church property, south florida haiti project bringing food, education supplies and medical care to Haitian communities, etc. This has been a great way to keep the community as much inside as it is outside, and visa versa.

    Great exercise! Loving the dialogue on all of this :).

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    Nate April 14, 2013 (7:14 am)

    While I love the idea, I have to say that my cynicism (whether my own or fostered in me by my angry New Jersey upbringing) makes me agree with Dennis. It seems good in theory, but I can’t really imagine our congregation really going for it.

    I realize I’m kinda singing the praises of the missional community model (believe me, I’ve seen it work well, especially in our jaded North Jersey communities), where the bulk of the “outreach” is handled by our missional communities. In fact, the majority of our MC’s are built around a felt need in a particular community where a group of people work together to help meet that need.

    To build awareness though, it’s conceivably a small step to showcase the work that our MC’s are doing through video or even a presentation from one or more of our MC leaders to show the congregation at large all the work that’s being done outside our four walls.

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    Sarah April 14, 2013 (2:08 pm)

    @Rick, so funny but I bet that estimate is about right for almost everything we do in churches. Always seems like 50% love an idea the other 50% hate. Good point.

    @Krista Like the idea of including a ministry contact. Good add.

    @Teresa I agree. The goal would be to move people to more than a one dimensional take on those outside. It sounds like you go to a great church. I’d love to visit if I’m ever in the area.

    @Nate, ha. Angry NJ upbringing. Great phrasing. :) And yeah, I think there are multiple ways to the same end, but I hope some of the ideas (but definitely not all of them) might be useful starting points for some Missional
    Communities too. Especially in their young days as they are first coming together and shaping…learning to embody… their values.

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    Sarah April 14, 2013 (2:09 pm)

    @Benji, so good. I have a post related to this going up down the road. I may just quote you. Can’t wait to hear how it goes.

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    Carrie April 14, 2013 (8:00 pm)

    The timing of this question is interesting because at my church we have been talking about being more aware of our community and taking time on a Wednesday night to do a prayer walk or at least create stations. I think for my faith community they would be very open to doing this. I think incorporating into worship is the best idea, but often we discover that breaking out of the norm comes with mixed comments. No matter where or when you do this kind of activity it will bring awareness to people. And I think it would help my congregation to think about those who are around the physical building of the church. Anytime you can push people out of their box it’s good.

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    Melinda April 14, 2013 (11:56 pm)

    Ok. So maybe I don’t completely understand this…but what is the point of this exercise? Just getting people to pray for different groups? I am not sure. Not that prayer isn’t good but how does this stretch a congregation? Seems to me it is saying you can hide behind prayer and not GO into the community & DO.

    I like the go & do services we have sometimes. Like we end service early and people with small kids make cards for people in the nursing home. Others go & help someone in need with yard work, others go to the nursing home & play games & visit with folks there. Etc. We are literally going!

    The all time favorite is our Christmas Eve service. Everyone is asked to bring two dozen cookies. Store bought or homemade doesn’t matter. We have a great but shorter service. Then everyone goes and prepares plates of cookies. Each family goes & delivers cookies to those who have to work on Christmas Eve. We are to thank them for their work, let them know they are appreciated, God loves them & invite them to church. People have found police officers working, hospital staff, tow truck drivers, pizza delivery people etc. It creates an awesome community impact!

    This is more of what we as churches should be doing. The exercise given is a way to hide behind prayer & let others go do & not go do yourself. Sorry. Hopefully this isn’t too harsh:(

    I hope this helps!

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      Sarah April 15, 2013 (8:07 am)

      @Melinda, I hear you. Go and do is where the series of exercises are directed…well, even more than go and do, go and build relationship. But it starts with awareness exercises, then moves to more hands on activities to invite people beyond their comfort zones.

      I love to hear what you’re doing with Christmas Eve services. Those kinds of activities are the next step in meeting others…and I think then, it extends to building long term relationship with some.

      Appreciate the feedback!

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    Angela April 15, 2013 (8:40 am)

    I might be a little late on this…I really like this idea, and I think that people in our body would be open to it. We’ve done things where you write down names of who you’re feeling led to pray about getting involved into the church. When we moved, we did this, and then it was painted over and made our mission statement, so it hangs in our building as a constat reminder to be shepherding. Thie exercise would probably bring out those same feelings, especially if the message was geared toward that area.

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    KC April 15, 2013 (2:38 pm)

    I believe that our church would welcome this during a service. The challenge (which I know you are addressing in other activities), is how to keep it from being a 1-day activity, but part of our church’s DNA.

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    jimmy proulx April 16, 2013 (10:40 am)

    I like this idea. However, I believe it should not replace the corporate gathering for worship and preaching. Our church has community groups. The idea you are talking about would work great in a smaller setting such as a Sunday School class or community group. This helps classes and groups to interact outside of their traditional class or group. It also provides a way for people to serve alongside each other, be held accountable and experience new things together.

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      Sarah April 16, 2013 (12:42 pm)

      Agreed @Jimmy. Not a replacement. A suplement perhaps.

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    Amy Jones April 17, 2013 (10:06 pm)

    I apologize that I am late in responding to last weeks post, but I had a crazy week. I love the idea you gave about the phone books, school personnel, elc. I think this would be a powerful experience for our congregation, especially in light of violence (shootings) happening in our community recently. There is push to pray for the community. Our pastor preached a powerful message for Good Friday from Titus 3:4-7. He challenged us to live out kindness, mercy, generously, grace, and hope within our community and neighborhood. There were chalk boards around the sanctuary with these words on them and each individual was challenged to get up and write who or how they were going to show these characteristics too. Almost every Sunday morning we have “My Journey” stories that share a congregants story of redemption or how they are impacting their neighborhood or community. There are opportunities to be involved through monthly Go Days where we serve our neighbors through service projects like repairing homes, racking leaves, etc.; serving the homeless; serving alongside other not-for-profit agencies, etc. Our congregants are actively involved in projects they initiate like serving refugees through community center, starting program for former prisoners, etc. Our pastors are continually encouraging and providing opportunities to engage with the community and neighborhood. This is what I believe Fellowship Missionary Church does well. A few years ago, we even walked the neighborhoods around the church on several Saturdays, asking what peoples needs were and what they desired in a church.