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Define Your Community of Ministry

Define your community of ministry

"Community of ministry" - the particular arena where the church concentrates its ministry - can mean several different things. (See Restorers of Hope, pp. 23-29; and Churches That Make a Difference, chapter 7.) Which of the following best describes the way your church defines its ministry community?

  • Settlers concentrate on the geographical neighborhoods where their churches are physically located and "work for the transformation of these neighborhoods from the inside out."
  • Gardeners develop ministry ties with neighborhoods outside their immediate area, which they view "as extensions of their own churches (spiritual homes), in the same way that homeowners view their gardens as an extension of their houses." For example, a suburban church might "adopt" a particular inner-city neighborhood, or a church might locate a ministry in a senior center or a mall.
  • Shepherds "primarily serve one targeted population . . . rather than a specific geographic neighborhood." A church with a commitment to persons with HIV/AIDS, low-income senior citizens, disabled persons, or Haitian immigrants, for example, might have ministries spanning several neighborhoods.

The way you define your community of ministry should take into account existing patterns of outreach, the residential and employment patterns of the congregation, natural connections between the congregation and a community (such as ethnicity), special concerns of the congregation, and the leading of God's Spirit.

If your church is a shepherd, describe the targeted population, and the reasons for the church's relationship with this group. If your church is a settler or a gardener, identify the boundaries of the neighborhood as specifically as possible. Take note of the relationship between your ministry community and the area(s) where most church members live. Also observe significant similarities and differences (like culture or income levels) between church members and the people in the community.

Unless you already have a clearly defined ministry community, one suggestion is to settle first on a limited geographical area, then focus on a population group emerging from your study. For example, you might select your school district. From your study of this community you may decide to focus on single parent families. Start small, while leaving room for future evolution and growth.

Check whether your church has defined different "neighbors" for different aspects of ministry - meeting social needs here while targeting evangelistic ministry there. A holistic approach ministers across the spectrum of spiritual and social needs in a community.