The church is a direct reflection of what the pastor sees when he looks in the mirror.
If the pastor sees himself as off the hook for the well being of those around him, the church sees themselves the same way.
However, if the pastor sees himself as responsible for the area surrounding his church, his people will follow suit and begin to think of themselves as missionaries to the neighborhood surrounding where they worship.
Pastor, one of the most powerful things you can do as you attempt revitalization is to view yourself as the pastor of not only your church, but the pastor of the neighborhood your church is in. This simple shift in thinking will change everything.
As I started to see myself this way, it started to affect my week. I started to knock on doors, have conversations, and generally began showing up for the people of Poe Mill. Within a pretty short amount of time my phone was ringing off the hook.
I was getting calls about people who were in the hospital, people who needed a trailer, and people who needed water because theirs was shut off. Not only were there plenty of opportunities for me to help, but ample opportunities to get my church involved as well. Interestingly, how I saw myself eventually became my reality. I wasn't just pastoring Griggs, I was pastoring the neighborhood Griggs was in.
All I had to do next was show up in my own way, with my own talents, and my own pastoral style.
See, pastoring the neighborhood is a lot like art. There isn't necessarily a long list of rules. It's not like Math or English. The point is just to do what comes naturally, and let it flow. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
One thing we, as pastors, have to recognize, is that most people in our neighborhood aren't going to bring their problems to us, unless they're big, life or death type problems. Very few people will be knocking on the door of the church down the street just because they have car trouble or the flu.
That's why we have to check in with them, just to see how they're doing. This is as simple as a knock on the door, a piece of mail we send out or, as we get to know people better, a text or Facebook message. We contact them, even if they don't yet go to our church and say, "I pray for folks here in the neighborhood each week, is there anything that I can pray for you specifically, big or small?"
Sometimes you may get a sense that something isn't right with a neighborhood family. You might see or hear something that prompts you to reach out. Always, always, always follow that prompting.
The other day I was talking to one of our members who told me he saw a kid on our church van knock ice cream out of another kid's hand on purpose. The ice cream was totally ruined, laying on the floor of the van. The child being bullied said he'd never come back to our church.
After figuring out who it was, I personally stopped by his house with a gift card for another ice cream. I was able to chat with the little guy and encourage him. The next Sunday he was back in kids ministry. This was also a chance for me to meet his family, who later came to our church.
Trust me, I'm no hero. I have more stories about my failure to pastor the neighborhood than successes. So let me give a shout-out to one of my deacons.
There's a homeless man who attends our church. Our deacon saw the obituary of this gentleman's mom one day in the newspaper and called me with the funeral information. At his suggestion, I went to the viewing, just to stop by. All I did was quickly shake our homeless friend's hand and tell him I was sorry. That's it.
But several times now that guy has stopped me in the parking lot and told me how much it meant to him that I showed up.
Simply making a shift in how you view yourself will do more for most of the people in your neighborhood than any sermon you every preach. I'm not saying to give up the latter for the former. We need to preach and to preach well.
What I am saying, however, is that there should be more people who consider you their pastor than hear you preach every Sunday. Eventually, by God's grace, both of those numbers will grow for the good of others and the glory of God.