I believe the local church should be known as the most generous organization in every city. When I say this, I am not intending to be competitive with other great nonprofit organizations or to diminish other wildly important enterprises for which a church could be known. I simply believe that the city in which your church resides should have extreme confidence and familiarity with how well you generously serve beyond your walls.
Every church has a reputation in its community. Sometimes it might not be exactly what you think. I know because I have been there. So, before we launch into different reasons why being generous toward your city is good for your people, your church, and your city, let me bring a few not so good reputations to your attention.
- No Reputation– It has always surprised me how unknown certain churches are by their community and it has nothing to do with size or location. I have experienced both large and small churches being completely unknown by those living in the community. Even with large buildings on major roadways.
- Negative Reputation– This can often occur because of a scandal or being embroiled in public debate within the community. It could be over a political, property, or ministry impropriety issue.
- Inconvenience Reputation– I say this because sometimes churches can cause local residents personal inconveniences. It may be how traffic becomes greatly congested at certain hours of the week or how personal property values are diminished because of the proximity to the church buildings. Also, it could be a few local businesses that are adversely impacted by church members who are consistently not the most appreciative customers.
I really hope your church is experiencing none of these negative comments. However, it is always important to know what your community is saying about you. (If you are interested in learning more about your true community contribution and impact, Lifeway Research can conduct both congregation and community surveys that are incredibly valuable. You can check out their resources at LifeWayResearch.com) Now, let’s move on to how serving your community helps your people.
Your people love your city. They are raising their families, growing their careers, and making lifelong friends. Additionally, through their own civic activities, they volunteer, serve, and impact their community in positive ways. This creates a couple of unique dynamics.
- Church attendees often have relationships in the community that can help the church discover easy ways to serve, meeting the most pressing needs. Whether it be through local schools, recreational leagues, or nonprofits. These relationships open new doors of witness and impact, but the church is often not invited on its own.
- Church attendees often have conversations around pressing issues in the community. Their friends, neighbors, and co-workers often discuss or participate in the same community activities resonating around the most important issues in their city. It is very helpful to the church member when his/her church is active in community transformation serving those in need. A church member can easily express vision and involvement in their local church because of the difference being made. The message of the church has just become a living testimony in the city. Additionally, an invitation to attend a church service just became a little easier.
So, how can a church become involved in serving its city at the highest level–gaining a reputation for being the most generous organization in town? Here are a few ideas.
- City Serve Day– Create a day dedicated for your church to serve its city in a variety of projects. These projects can be organized through small groups, ministry departments, or by church leadership. They can range from helping a widow with physical repairs to her home, spending time with nursing home residents, or repainting school classrooms. The opportunities are endless, especially if you decentralize the effort to the passions and relationships of your people. Be mindful, that you want to engage all ages and types of people. Not everyone is good working with their hands and not all projects are safe for kids. You also want to use this opportunity to build bridges to key organizations and civic leaders.
- Collection Opportunity– Locate a few nonprofits in your city whose mission you care deeply about. They actually focus on a need you may be passionate about, but cannot take a deep dive into, because it would divert your focus from your vision. Nevertheless, they serve your city well and help your church stay focused. Dedicate a day to collect needed supplies and donate them to various nonprofits. This is also an easy way to engage all ages and ministry departments. Children love to shop for and give items to those in need. Many great discipleship conversations can happen in a home when a church creates such an opportunity.
- Giving Opportunity– Locate several nonprofits in your city that need financial resources. You believe in their mission, and they have an impact you could never reproduce. They too help you stay focused on your mission while caring for a significant need in your city. Do not be afraid to even dedicate an entire weekend offering to support important needs and organizations in your community. Being radically generous is a great example to your people of the kind of life you desire all to live.
Insider advice, you cannot just serve your city a little with the interest of gaining a reputation or some much needed positive publicity. Many churches have gained a reputation of being out for themselves while trying to serve. Pick up the towel of servanthood, bowl of humility, and wash the feet of others. Serve because it is what Jesus would do, solely acting for the benefit of others. Do it again and again, then watch what God does.
The church is called to its city. It is very easy to get stuck in a one-way relationship, wanting the city to come into our doors then become like us. However, when disciples flourish in their city, the city rejoices and is blessed.
“When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices; when the wicked die, there is joyful shouting. A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked.” Proverbs 11:10-11 CSB
One of the easiest and best ways to practice generosity as a church is to serve your city well. Serve it with great consistency. Serve it with an open hand and gracious heart. This will help grow a generous culture, disciple families, and create an unstoppable reputation of generosity.