This past week I was asked about networking in my local area
> I hope all is well in your new appointment. I have been following your exploits on facebook. I have a question
> for you. Last week, you wrote about networking in the local community (Starbucks, etc.). I am trying to be more
> effective in my day to day ministry at networking. What specifically do you do when you network with local places? -Clergy Person A
And my reponse:
For me, I try to make as many of my interactions in the community as I can (really and truly I sometimes forget to do so, or just am not up to it at that moment, but I am practicing) about finding out something new. I want to find out from the Starbucks folks and anybody I run into in business, how they are doing that day, and if I can slide it in, when it isn't too busy, I ask personal questions. The three I hold to are: What is your name? Do you go to church? and then in response to the answer of the second question - if yes, "Why do you go where you go?"; if no, "What keeps you from going?". I will often introduce myself as the "new" pastor in town (though when I was a little longer in one place I did phrase it as, "I am trying to find out some more about my community.")
The first time out I never invite them to church, I just inform them where I am. I may ask them if they are working in a business to consider what they might need. I try my best to follow up in three to four weeks, with questions about what they need, and how they see those needs being met. I want to then reflect that back to the congregation I serve so that they can see what kinds of ministry doors are being opened to them.
With the changes in effect from the "Faith-based Initiatives" from President G.W.Bush, I also try to schedule meetings with the principals in the local schools around the church, to try and find out what I can about their needs, the problems and the strengths to find where we mesh.
As additional meetings, I have gone out to talk to the Police, Sheriff, Fire and even with City and County Council (I am in the process of making some of those connections now in Santa Maria). I want to get a strong sense of the pulse of the town. I want to know where the "immigrant workers" congregate. I want to see the town from several angles. To that end, I have set up meetings with one of our local vintners to tour his fields, and with a former Ag teacher to give me a look around the fields and help me learn what is being grown where in Santa Maria.
I also try to observe as much as possible so that when I run into someone about town, I have a chance to touch them, say hi and let them know that I noticed them. I had a great example of that the other day when I was at Starbucks, I saw a lot of people there for free pastry day. Later in the week, one of the teachers for the music academy was getting in his car as I was arriving to church. He was one of the people I saw at Starbucks. I hadn't introduced myself at Starbucks, but told him I remembered him from that trip, and then introduced myself in the context of the church.
I want to do my level best to be known in the community, to propigate the name of the church in as many positive ways as possible. I want to meet the people, see what the holes in society are, and find ways for the church to be meeting unmet needs of the community. But that means meeting my people, meeting the community, and exploring that which goes unseen by many. Then trying to bring together the gifts of my congregation, their desires for where they want the church to go, and the needs of the community. All three have to come together or we just go failing when we try to do something.
I hope I haven't bored you with details, but I would be happy to talk with you more, either by phone, or email, or in person. Let me know.
Labels: Community Discourse