Webinar Gives Tools to Expand Ministry by Understanding Local Area

October 22, 2020

“This is all about human relationships and people you connect with,” stated Rev. Craig Brown, Executive Director of Congregational Ministries for the CNUMC and guest speaker for the Wednesday Webinar, October 21, 2020. Brown discussed a set of skills needed for pastors and lay persons in order to learn about their community and expand the church's ministry. “And managing that well as an extrovert or introvert—[both] those types of people can do that type of work, you just gotta manage it based on who you are.”

“Make sure your head is on well today ‘cuz it’s gonna be a head spinning webinar,” said Brown explaining that the webinar would be a mix of short presentations followed by brief break out sessions. “You’ll be moving from content to break out room—doing that four times, back and forth—it’s gonna move really quick!”

Brown shared his computer screen to present three levels of relational engagement with the community to better understand the context of the church’s ministry.

The first level is the easiest and less time-consuming and includes reading the headlines and obituaries of the local newspaper to learn about what is going on and what type of people have lived in the area. Brown suggested walking in the local area between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to observe who is living there or staking out the grocery store to see who is coming in and out and what they are buying. Simply talking to people and asking questions and listening to find out their personal story is an easy way to learn about the area. Using social networking apps such as NextDoor, MeetUP and Facebook are quick ways to get in touch with the local community.

The next level of effort requires more strategic planning and preparation, especially due to COVID-19 restrictions. Meeting local business owners and cultivating relationships with community organizations, as well as public school officials, is an important part of getting to know the community needs and strengths.

“An easy way to do this is meet those people as if you are trying to become their chaplain,” stated Brown. “You may never know, you go into the auto repair and say, “If you ever have someone come in here who is in a big crisis, a disaster for them…here’s my card, have them call me.”

Another way to learn about the community is to use the “sign post” approach. This is comprised of finding a venue such as a coffee shop or brewery where people regularly come

and go. Next, make a regular habit of being there for an hour or so every day at the same time of day observing. Then, after a few weeks, add a sign at the table that says, “Chaplain” and see if people sit down and share their stories.

The most time-consuming way to learn about a community is to cultivate relationships with local and state politicians, other faith leaders, and people involved in social and service enterprises outside of the church.

“And look for places where innovation is happening,” stated Brown. Brown also talked about how to find local entrepreneurs saying that sometimes you have to visit the site, such as a community garden, to find out who is involved, who is spearheading the efforts. “You want to find those people and understand the kind of work they are doing … making those connections can be really powerful.”

Other resources Brown reviewed includes researching websites of the Chamber of Commerce, City Council, and the County Board of Supervisors. The California-Nevada UMC offers free access to an ethnographic and demographic tool called, “Missioninsite,”which is available online at cnumc.org/cd under the tab “Cultivating Places.”

Brown listed must reads: “To Alter Your World” by Michael Front and Christiana Rice; “The Permanent Revolution” by Alan Hirsch and Tom Catchim; “Reframation” by Alan Hirsch; “The Nazareth Manifesto” by Samuel Wells; and, “The Mystic Way of Evangelism” by Elaine Heath.

The webinar and PowerPoint presentation can be found at cnumc.org.

Next week’s webinar, “Affirming Your Political Voice and Caring for Your Neighbor—The Election Mandate and the Day After” will feature guest speaker Rev. Dr. Bo Lim, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Seattle Pacific Seminary. Dr. Lim’s work is focused on the intersection of text, theology, culture, and mission.

Join us for an in-depth discussion about this important topic – a week before the election. (Luke 10:25-37). We will explore sharing our voices and caring for our neighbors.

Our country is divided along many lines – political, red state/blue state, demographics, cultural, socio-economic, racial, gender, abilities, sexuality, church affiliation, etc. Find ways to affirm your voice and be a neighbor – especially when you disagree.