A church can impact its community by having a gift-based, passion-driven ministry. To explain what that means and looks like I will share a personal ministry experience and what I learned from it. I leave the specifics of how it applies to your situation up to you.
I was holding a membership class in the church I was pastoring and one element of that was to discover the SHAPE of the new people. The SHAPE of a person determines their function.
Heart or passion
Ephesians 4:11-16 indicates that Christ—as the head of the church guiding, directing, and building it—gives people as gifts to the church. I believe the SHAPE of the people He brings into a church indicates how He wants a church to minister. Therefore, in the membership class we discussed what each person’s SHAPE was.
As it turned out, the people in this small group had gifts for serving and a passion for the homeless and street people. Several in the group had experience and skills in cooking. When we discussed how they could serve in the church the idea of a soup kitchen came up and we decided to try it.
One of the first things I learned from this experience is that if a church is going to impact its community, the church leadership needs to understand the SHAPE of its people so ministry can be gift-based and passion-driven.
The soup kitchen started small with this group of new church members leading it. Because those serving didn’t have to be coaxed or cajoled, as is the case sometimes with other church ministries, they had a sense of ownership—it wasn’t someone else’s passion that they were wrangled into helping with. This reiterates Ephesians 4:12, which says the pastor-teacher’s role is to equip God’s people to do His work, not to do all the work themselves. As the pastor I was freed to simply to show up at the soup kitchen, give thanks for the food, and minister to the people who came for lunch.
As word spread the number of people who came for lunch grew, as did the number of days the soup kitchen was open. The rest of the church saw what was happening and many others wanted to participate. Food and help were abundant. In fact, I turned away helpers because we already had more than enough volunteers. How often does that happen in church ministry?
A second thing I learned is that when ministry is gift-based and passion-driven, church leaders will neither have to beg people to serve nor will they have to compromise and settle for an unqualified person just to fill a position. The ministry will not lack supply because the believers are passionate and will want to give as well as be trained in order to be involved. Their joy in serving is contagious.
Word of what the church was doing spread through the community both by word of mouth and by the local newspaper. A businessman heard about it and came to me with food he had purchased for the soup kitchen saying, “I wanted to do this because you are the only church I see doing something for the community.” Regardless of what other churches were doing or not doing, this man’s observation struck me. Churches tend to measure themselves by their evangelistic outreach, by their preaching, or by the kinds of things they offer believers. In contrast, a community measures a church by what it does for the community.
Maybe you’re familiar with the saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is also true on a community level. To paraphrase the saying, a community doesn’t care what a church does unless and until it knows the church cares as shown by what they do for the community. That’s how they measure our impact—they see us as irrelevant unless we are helping the local community.
The ultimate impact we want is to have people hearing the gospel and coming to Christ. Having a gift-based, passion-driven ministry benefiting the local community earns a church credibility to share the gospel with its community.
Does that mean having a soup kitchen will draw hordes of people into your church? No, but it will just show in a tangible way that you care about the people outside the church’s walls. And once they know you care, they just might care about what you know.