Does your church know its neighbours?

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1 Does your church know its neighbours? A Community Opportunity Scan will help a church experience God at work in the community and discover how it might join Him.

2 Is your church involved in loving its neighbours? Perhaps there is a restlessness or dissatisfaction in your church with the way things are now. Perhaps people in the church are asking, How can we become more involved in the lives of people in our neighbourhood? or How do we respond to the opportunities to serve in our community? A church that is ready to see its relationship with its neighbours in a new way will find that a Community Opportunity Scan (COS) opens doors to exciting possibilities. A COS is a process of discovery. It will not only identify opportunities to serve, it will also affirm the unique gifts and assets in the community and in the church. This document describes key elements of the COS process. How you use those elements will depend on the unique gifts and assets of your church and your community. The resources available from (DMC) have been used by established churches, church plants, rural congregations and urban churches. In addition to this document, DMC staff are available to support, and provide resources to churches conducting a COS. You will find useful tools, templates, sample reports and contact information on DMC s website (under Engaging Community). May you be blessed by God through this journey of discovery! How will a COS help your church get to know and love your neighbours? Your church will SEE and HEAR what God is already doing in your community: Listening is hard work! Pray for discernment, and practice disciplined listening to people s stories. Allow God to reveal to you what He is already doing in your community. Your church will begin to UNDERSTAND its community: Demographics might help you understand your community better, but it will come alive when talking to people who have lived in a community longer than you, especially community leaders who are working with the people groups or neighbourhoods that you are hoping to reach. Your church will IDENTIFY ministry opportunities: Demographics might help reveal needs that can be addressed; however, looking for opportunities means a. learning from and working with others already serving the community b. looking at people not as objects to reach but as local partners. Your church will BE CHALLENGED to become involved with its neighbours: Churches gain the healthy respect of the city and bring honour to Jesus name when they listen and show by their actions that they want to help make their cities more loving, grace-filled and just. Your church will DEEPEN ITS LOVE for people who do not yet know Jesus: Getting to know your community means getting to know its people. A COS will help your church 2

3 understand the unique gifts and needs of your neighbours. Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you not only to understand your neighbours, but also to love them. Your church will be INVITED TO SEEK JUSTICE for circumstances that are not right: learning about your community will reveal areas of injustice that call for more than a response of mercy. The Difference between Needs and Opportunities It is natural, though limiting, to focus on needs when seeking to connect with a community of people. You might find out the most significant needs in the community and then try to respond to them. At some level that can be okay; however, it could also potentially harm relationships and stifle other opportunities to learn and grow. In the Community: If your church only focuses on needs in the community, you miss out on the assets that are already there, and the advantage of building on strengths and partnerships. It is very important to see both. A church needs to become aware of the vast range of services and activities in the community to not only appreciate how the community has already responded, but by focusing on strengths your efforts will have more traction and sustainability. At the same time, God can use this process to show us gaps and opportunities that He might be calling your church to address. In the Church: Individual members, and churches as a whole, also have gifts and talents. No church has unlimited gifts, and it is important to know who you are and what your resources are. Knowing those gifts is an important step in identifying the kind of ministry to which God might be calling your church. It is equally true that those in the church also have needs. You do not need to hide those needs when developing healthy relationships with your community. The reality is that all are sinners whom Christ is working to renew each day. Humble transparency is not only healthy, but it will go a long way toward building authentic relationships. Is your church ready to undertake a COS? (Related materials available at see Engaging Community/ Community Opportunity Scan) Certain conditions help to determine whether or not a church is ready to undertake a COS. staff are available to meet with churches wrestling with this issue and may help the church with some of the following: Pray: Is God calling your church to this process at this time? Discern His will through prayer together. Healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo: An eagerness for new opportunities might compel the church to look for different ways to connect to the community. This needs to be shared by a significant group of people in the church including the pastor, the deacons, a core of church leaders and a significant percentage of the congregation. Change in Neighbourhood: The church might be moving to a new place (with more space for the community to use), or there may be a significant demographic change in the local neighbourhood (i.e. new building developments around the church). When the neighbourhood changes, a COS helps to align your ministry to that change. 3

4 Re-examining Mission/Vision: As a church discerns its identity and vocation, it is a good idea to listen to needs and opportunities from within the congregation and outside of the church. Home Missions often plays an important role in facilitating the visioning process, and encourages churches to include a COS in the design of that process. Discerning commitment to action: Undertaking a COS requires a commitment to act on the findings. If there is very strong resistance to change from within the church, an unwillingness to examine the current health of the church, or a reluctance to be involved in the lives of people outside of the church, then these issues need to be addressed before the process begins. 4. The Timeline of a COS The length of time required to complete a COS depends on many different factors: the number of people undertaking the work (how many are available to gather information and conduct interviews during the day), the size of the community, the amount of detailed information to be collected, and the method of discerning ministry priorities. The timeline may also be influenced by other processes underway within the church (i.e. strategic planning or visioning process). The COS may take anywhere between 6-12 months. 5. The Key Components of a COS A. Prayer (Related materials available at see Engaging Community/ Community Opportunity Scan) The entire process of the COS should be bathed in prayer. You might pray alone or as prayer partners. Ask your congregation and the prayer ministry to pray. You might also organize prayer walks to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying about the people of your community. Prayer prepares the hearts of the people in the community. Recognize that the Holy Spirit is already at work in your community, and is inviting you to join in. Pray for the Holy Spirit s continued work, for the eyes to see, and for the courage to respond. God will open doors for conversations to take place. Prayer will also help you listen for God s leading through the interviewing process. Prayer changes your heart. As you begin to pray for the people in your neighbourhood or community, the Holy Spirit will soften your heart for them too. God desires our hearts to be broken for our neighbours. We need to see people with His eyes. B. Building a Team A sponsoring group (the diaconate, council, outreach or visioning committee) will first decide to undertake the COS process. Although that group may not be directly involved in gathering information, they will help to align the outcomes to the larger context of the church s ministry. Gathering information will ideally be undertaken by a team of 5-8 people. 4

5 Who is on the team? A COS team usually includes 1-2 people from the sponsoring group, and it should include several other people with a variety of gifts: a leader who is good at delegating and motivating 2-3 people with strong conversational skills for interviews (available for daytime visits). people with connections to the community (social worker, principal, real estate agent, etc.) a person with creative vision to generate ideas from opportunities discovered during the COS at least one person with significant computer and clerical skills What is the team committing to do? People who are part of the team will be asked to prepare for, and attend team meetings work with a small group to gather information summarize and share their findings C. Defining the Community Before you begin a Community Opportunity Scan, it is important to define your community (identify where you will focus your scan). The authors of Becoming a Church that Makes a Difference suggest that there is more than one way to do this. Becoming a Church that Makes a Difference: A Guide to the Holistic Ministry Journey by Heidi Unruh, Ron Sider, Phil Olson Settlers concentrate on the geographic neighbourhood or physical tract where they are located and work for the transformation of these neighbourhoods from the inside out. Gardeners develop ministry ties with other neighbourhoods. For example, a predominately suburban church might adopt a particular inner-city neighbourhood. Shepherds primarily serve one targeted population rather than a specific geographical neighbourhood. A church with a commitment to low-income senior citizens and/or disabled persons, for example, might have a community of ministry spanning an entire region. Defining your community early on will help you decide which community leaders, agencies, and individuals you will want to interview during the process. As the process unfolds you may discover reasons to redefine or adjust the boundaries of your community of ministry. D. Gathering Information There are numerous available sources of information about your community from demographic data to conversations with agency personnel, households, community members, and other church leaders. The amount of time and attention given to each of these sources may vary between churches. For example, a church that wishes to make personal connections with the people in 5

6 their neighbourhood may emphasize the individual interviews. Another church may focus more on the agency and community leader interviews in order to identify local gaps in service and then possible ministry partners. A few things to think about: Select and prioritize agencies, churches, and community leaders that fit within your defined community. When you meet with individual, agencies or other groups, be sure to share the purpose of gathering this information. Be careful not to set unrealistic expectations regarding how the church will or can respond to identified needs. When you have completed the COS process, take the time to share your results with people who have taken the time to meet with you. 1. Demographic Data An important part in preparing to conduct a COS is locating and studying accurate demographic materials that can help you understand your community better. Consider comparative data (years, target area) to determine trends. While it may be tempting to limit your study to the free sources of material, you may benefit from purchasing, for a relatively small fee, demographic materials tailored to your particular needs and situation. Potential Sources of Free Data Canadian Census materials (available on-line and in print at many local libraries) Local Planning Department Local Chamber of Commerce Local Real Estate Board Local Social Development Council and Agencies Local Universities Potential Sources of Commercial Resources Outreach Canada: You can view samples of the Community Profiles produced by Outreach Canada on their website. The website also includes an order form. Demographic data is available at a reasonable cost to churches and can be ordered and tailored to meet your needs. AMB Research consultant Myrlene Boken will prepare a comparative statistical report based on your specific geographic area ( ). Regional Social Development Councils and Agencies. Some provide resources outlining local agencies, non profit organizations along with a brief summary of their activities and contact information. The Community Social Data Strategy (a partnership between the Canadian Council on Social Development and Statistics Canada) makes statistical resources available to community-based organizations cost effectively. You can begin by looking at poverty by postal code at 6

7 2. Community Interviews Samples of the various types of interviews described in this section are available on DMC s website. They should be edited to fit your specific context and purpose. Also available on the website are sample charts that may be helpful when compiling and summarizing your findings. i). Interviews with Community Agencies Contact several agencies in order to identify the services they provide and their perceptions of community needs in the selected area. Consider the following suggestions: Look over a list of agencies in the community, and select a maximum of ten to twelve organizations. Call agencies ahead of time to make an appointment with a director or program supervisor, if possible. Most interviews can be done in an hour or less. You may consider mailing an advance copy of the questions to the person with whom you will be meeting. It is best to go in pairs: a note-taker and a facilitator. Ask to tour the facility. Be relaxed! Remember you are getting to know each other. Take some time to let the agency tell its story. There is great value in having face to face conversations the personal connection is part of the process and contributes to future networking and relationship building possibilities. ii). Interviews with Individuals The COS process is about building relationships, so each step of the process must involve meeting the people from whom you are interested in hearing. Consider the following suggestions: Drop off and pick up surveys: response rates will increase with personal contact Where it is difficult to reach people in their homes (i.e. people living in apartment buildings), consider other gathering points (malls, recreation facilities, parks) from which to make contact iii). Interviews with Community Leaders Community leaders (such as politicians, city officials, school principals, police officers, service club members) can provide information about services that presently exist in the community, possible gaps in service or unmet needs, plans for new developments and initiatives, and particular challenges in your community of ministry. iv). Interviews with other Churches and Faith Groups This is an opportunity for you to introduce your church, and collect information about their programs and activities. It will help you avoid duplication and identify possible areas of collaboration and/or partnership. 7

8 v). Interviews with Businesses Local businesses are interested in the health of the neighbourhoods where they are located. Well-established businesses may be able to share information about how the neighbourhood has changed over time. Some may be willing to consider new opportunities to contribute to the welfare of the community. 3. Analyzing the Data (Related materials available at see Engaging Community/ Community Opportunity Scan) The following questions will be helpful when analyzing the data: (Questions developed by Ted Kruse for Building Church Leaders, Christianity Today Int l., and Outreach Canada.) How representative of the surrounding community is our church? In which category is our church most (un)like the community? What people, agencies or resources might we need to consult or partner with to contribute more effectively to our community? Is it on the border of a low (or high) income community? Is our community experiencing change? What surprises us about the statistics? What do they confirm? E. Involving the Congregation (Related materials available at see Engaging Community/ Community Opportunity Scan) Sharing Information While the COS is underway, the team should take the time to share with church leaders and the congregation what it is learning about the community. Sharing this information will increase ownership and appreciation of the process. The congregation s interest will also encourage the COS team. From time to time, consider providing the congregation with brief did you know? announcements in the church newsletter graphs from the demographic reports displayed on a church bulletin board specific prayer requests. These things will ensure the congregation remains informed and connected to the process. Identifying Gifts and Passions Gathering information from the community will provide an overwhelming number of opportunities for every church. No church is able to respond to every opportunity; therefore, an important step in the COS process is examining the unique gifts and passions of your congregation. What is God calling your congregation to do at this time? Consider conducting a gifts inventory. This information would be helpful in identifying the unique identity of your congregation. The DMC website also contains sample congregational surveys that can be tailored to specific opportunities revealed during the community interview phase. 8

9 sharing the findings of the process with the congregation before forming any conclusions or recommendations. Encourage members to share how God is leading them to respond. F. Discerning Ministry Opportunities (Related materials available at see Engaging Community/ Community Opportunity Scan) As you identify ministry opportunities, keep in mind various ministry approaches that may be developed over a period of time. The information you gather will provide opportunities to create awareness about people and situations in your community of which the church may have previously been unaware. highlight service opportunities for organized groups and/or individual members who are searching for ways to become personally involved in the community. identify ministry partners to increase capacity to respond, and avoid duplication. evaluate existing programs with new insight into how potential participants may find current programming inaccessible, or an obstacle to sustainable change. begin new ministries where services and opportunities for building relationships exist. Identifying ministry opportunities involves reviewing and evaluating the possibilities recorded during the information-gathering phase. From these many possibilities, it is necessary to discern the short term and longer term priorities for your church. Consider inviting Diaconal Ministries Canada staff to help facilitate this section of the process. A simple process of identifying priority opportunities may include the following: Review the possibilities recorded in the summary charts (demographics, community interviews, church visits, etc). Group possibilities into themes where possible. List a maximum of possibilities on a flipchart. Ask each team member to o write on a piece of paper three opportunities from the list that your church could start within a year. o put an asterisk by two opportunities that are most important for your church to consider in light of its gifts, resources and strengths. o identify the one ministry that will have the greatest impact on the church s efforts to become involved with the community in a new way (and explain why) Share and discuss your responses. G. Implementation and Monitoring The COS is not complete until its findings/recommendations lead to measurable changes. Consider the following: COS team members or a new team will translate ministry possibilities into specific activity goals with timelines, accountable individuals and expected outcomes. It is important that the COS team and the sponsoring group have the same understanding of when and how the results of the COS will be implemented and monitored. 9

10 The sponsoring group may also consider developing a budget that will be available for new initiatives at the end of process. The information gathered by the COS team should be updated from time to time, and referred to when considering new ministry initiatives. This happens best if your church stays connected to the community (including those you interviewed) following the COS. A Final Word of Caution The richness of the COS experience can be quickly undermined if it simply becomes an information-gathering exercise if the team becomes so buried in information that it loses sight of its purpose if your church assumes an appropriate response is doing something to or for the community, rather than with the community if personal or corporate agendas limit the scope and potential of opportunities if the team cuts itself off from new discoveries and challenges by limiting conversations to people and agencies that it already knows Conducting a Community Opportunity Scan is not a difficult task, but it requires focus, commitment and perseverance. God is waiting to bless and delight those who seek to discover, who seek to see and hear, who seek to be amazed by the height and depth, width and breadth of His love for all He has created! Community ministry stories, resource materials, and further information are available at (905) Mainway PO Box 5070, STN LCD 1 Burlington, Ontario L7R 3Y8 10

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