Jesus goes home. Nazareth is where he grew up. One might take for granted that they would welcome him with open arms but they don’t. The hometown boy doesn’t get a brass band. Indeed, they hardly know him.
Our churches are often like that. Sometimes we don’t get recognized in our communities. Perhaps our neighbors take us for granted or don’t even know what we do or who we are, or who we have become. The new Local Church Profile is a resource for self-study produced for the use of congregations who are in the process of searching for a pastor. But it is also a useful tool for the churches to evaluate where they are in their ministry and where God might be calling them. The Profile (LCP) has a section for helping churches ask questions about who they are and where God is calling them. It also has a section that asks churches to observe who their neighbors are and to ask questions about how their neighbors view them.
Did you ever think of that? How does your community view your church? Do the people in your hometown recognize the things you do? What do your neighbors think goes on behind your walls? Do they know what you believe? Have you cultivated relationships with other organizations in your community? How do other churches or other institutions see you? Do they know you at all?
Some of our churches have thought about their relationships with other organizations and have reached out to their community. Those relationships are with a variety of partners. in Naples, Florida, the United Church of Christ there considers the Neighborhood Healthcare Clinic and Dental Surgical Room a mission partner offering financial support and volunteer opportunities. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the First Congregational United Church of Christ partners with the Johnson School of the Arts, a magnet school across the street. In Hudsonville, Michigan, the UCC congregation has many community partnerships. Some of these are youth oriented and they include: Kids Hope USA, Intramural basketball, Head Start, and a diaper bank.
If your congregation was to develop community partnerships where would you begin? With whom would you partner to make your presence felt and reach out to your community? You might begin with the UCC partners in Service program at ucc.org, or you could just look around and see who is next door serving your neighbors. Be known in your hometown!