Loving And Letting Go: 3 Keys To Serving A Community On The Move
The local community is at the heart of many churches. Whether you live in a community in New York City or Southern California, your community has unique and defining features. Inevitably, the local church reflects the surrounding culture.
One type of community tends to be more difficult to engage with than others: the community on the move (these can include military or college towns).
As I speak with church leaders about finding staff, they often mention their frustrations with trying to build youth and children’s ministries or equip volunteers, knowing that most people will be moving on within a few years. If you're a staff member at a church in a transient community, here are three practical keys to consider to make the most of your ministry.
1. Love Them While You Have Them
One of the hardest parts of being a church in a community on the move is not holding back from truly loving each person that comes to your church. It is almost human nature to hold back from getting to know someone deeply if we know they won’t be around long.
One great example of this is foster care. There is a huge need for families to step up and take in foster children, yet many don’t. The universal reason for the lack of involvement in foster care is that people don’t want to get their hearts broken. People don’t want to invest time and energy into loving and caring for kids only to have them taken away after a few months and placed with another family. Who would want to volunteer themselves for heartbreak?
This same concept applies to those in your congregation that are only there for a short time. Yes, they will be gone in a few years (or months), but we are called to love them while we have them. Sometimes dying to ourselves means making a conscious effort to love those who will move on after a short time.
"Sometimes dying to ourselves means making a conscious effort to love those who will move on after a short time."
2. Equip Them For The In-Between
There is a time between leaving the community you know and getting connected into a new one that can take a toll on a person’s soul. This especially applies to churches located in military towns.
As a church in these communities you should have two primary functions:
- You need to have a big “front door” through which all new members of your community can easily enter. By having easy gateways to community groups and social gatherings, you can limit that in-between time. Be proactive in reaching people, not reactive.
- As people leave your church to move on, keep them connected through online teaching, social media, and the occasional phone call or text. Give them a spiritual lifeline as they transition into a new church family.
3. Provide Family Services
Families that are on the move have extra distractions and stresses that can often lead to toxic family culture. It is vital for transient families to have regular heart and relationship checks. Be intentional about organizing child care for a parents' night out or providing family and marriage counseling. Providing these resources gives each family time to check on the health of their hearts.
It can be difficult for churches to effectively reach individuals and families in communities on the move, but it is a critical task in bringing more people to the Kingdom.
If your church is in a community on the move, how can you restructure your ministries to best serve this community?