How do we continue the ministry of Jesus? It happens when our churches become outward-focused communities that aim to be outposts of the kingdom of God, bringing hope and help from Jesus. We love God’s Mission and want to keep our eyes and ears constantly open to identify where the Holy Spirit is at work and how we can join him in what he is doing. This is the same for large cities, medium sized cities and rural communities, but the specifics look different in each context. Below are some outreach basics on where to begin with in Small Town USA:
Identify existing relational networks.
People in small towns are generally very relational and there are likely networks and communities already in existence. For example, there may be snowmobiling clubs, gardening groups or regular places that people frequent often. Spend time getting to know your town and observe where people spend time and what they enjoy doing!
In the city I live, there aren’t a lot of options for people to hang in the evening so a lot of people hang out at Enjoy the Store. Enjoy is difficult to describe because it’s simply one of the coolest places to go in Northern California as it has snacks, wine, beer and coffee, local artisans, gifts, etc. People love hanging there. For me, it’s one of the best places to go and get to know new people and over the course of the last six months, we’ve probably seen about a hundred people come to our church through relationships that have been developed at the Enjoy.
Where do people hang out and what do people do together in your city?
Get involved in the school.
If there’s any possible way for you to volunteer at the school, do it! Small towns take their kids very seriously and if you invest time and energy into the lives of children, you’ll demonstrate that you care about that community and love your neighbors in ways that they value. In my experience, loving on kids is a really great way to create opportunities to build relationships with their parents. What parent dislikes when other people invest in their kids, right?
If you can’t get involved in the local school, serve kids in other ways. Perhaps the town has a local Easter egg hunt and you can help at it. If there are any other events that focus on kids, find ways to get involved! Investing in kids means investing in the community and investing in the community is often how you earn opportunities to share Jesus with people around you.
Do anything listed in Steve Sjogren’s 101 Ways to Reach Your Community.
No, seriously. Do anything listed in Steve’s book. Whether doing giveaways or investing into the community, 101 Ways has a ton of easy and practical ways for you to do outreach in your city and most of them are easily applicable in small town USA.
101 Ways is a great resource because it’s very practical and walks you through the steps you’ll need to know in order to do really fun and effective things in order to demonstrate the love of God in a practical way. In my opinion, it’s Outreach 101. Plus, this is a great resource for Church Planting Triads to use when targeting specific locations to begin the process of multiplication!
Commit to long term consistency.
In small town USA, people are always watching you and the longer you faithfully serve, the more relational equity you build in the community. This is partly because people in rural communities are sometimes suspicious of “new” people and will take time to determine whether you are serious about being a long-term and consistent member of the community.
This means that when you get discouraged during your second or third year, you have to remember that the real fruit begins to take form in your fourth and fifth year of serving the community. This is why we like to talk a lot about long-term and sustainable ministry in the Vineyard.
This article originally appeared here.