6 ideas for getting involved in community ministry
By Jack Marslender | Oct 12, 2021
I wish I could say I had a great vision for getting Avondale Baptist Church involved in community ministry. There was a plan, but it was God’s and not mine.
God has led us to be deeply involved in our community. Four days per week, we give out brown bag lunches. On Mondays, we offer free medical care to the uninsured. On Wednesdays, we take our turn in a rotating homeless shelter. Once per month, we give out food boxes to 100 families. For eight weeks twice per year, we host a low-cost basketball ministry for 150 children and teenagers. And there’s more.
I hope the following ideas help you respond to God’s call to get involved in ministry in your community!
Listen to the hearts of your members and say “Yes!” Our brown bag ministry was the idea of a church member. She wanted us to do more than send people to the food bank and asked me if we could hand them a brown bag lunch. As I pondered the logistics, she caught my attention when she said, “Pastor, I’ll raise the money, put the lunches together, and enlist some helpers.” I said “Yes!” She has since moved away, but our team still gives out 150 lunches per week.
Participate in city and ministry meetings. I heard about our medical partner at a city meeting. At a nonprofit meeting, I raised my hand to ask a question about homelessness — be careful about raising your hand — and found myself in charge of a homeless task force.
Partner with others. Part of our success is that we partner with outside experts. We work with Mission of Mercy for medical care, Lutheran Social Services for homeless ministry, and with St. Mary’s Food Bank for food distribution. Surprisingly, the City of Avondale was so appreciative of our efforts to get the homeless off the streets that they gave us $4,000 for start-up costs!
Constantly teach God’s love. Community ministry is messy! It’s not unusual to find people sleeping (and worse) on our property. We routinely find trash from our food ministry. We’ve had to drop people from our homeless ministry due to drug abuse — even prostitution. Profanity and disrespect are constant issues in our basketball league, for many of the teens come from tough situations. Our members have been great — but we must constantly remind them of God’s love and train them to deal with the issues in a loving way.
Let your people lead. Surprisingly, our ministries take up very little staff time, since members already have a heart for hurting people. They just need vision from the pulpit, a small amount of funding, and encouragement. I am personally involved in our basketball ministry (which pays for itself), but our homeless ministry, our food ministries, and our medical ministry are run completely by quality volunteers. We help them with communication, we brag about our hardworking members, and we let them use their talents and giftings to run the ministry.
Start Small. A brown bag ministry is an ideal way to start, since it requires only a few people and very little money. (Our team raises their funds; nothing comes out of our church budget.) Once you have a success or two under your belt, and your members find out you’re willing to let them lead, other opportunities will arise. Be willing to say, “Yes!”
I hope these suggestions help you get involved in your community. It attracts people and provides multiple opportunities to share the gospel every week. If you are interested, I will be glad to tell you more about our ministries!
Jack Marslender is pastor of Avondale Baptist Church in Avondale, Arizona, and president of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention.