Getting a parish to think of themselves beyond the "four walls" of their church and engaging the community is a critical step of having a vital, active congregation that proclaims Christ. Doing that effectively requires that the congregation nurture their relationship to the community they live in.
Joy Skjegstad from the Alban Institute writes:
Getting to know the community that your congregation will focus on is a critical step in defining your mission. To start, work on getting answers to several key questions: What are the primary issues in your community? How do the people in the community want the church to respond to those issues? And probably most important: do the people in your community actually want the ministry you are proposing? Your congregation will be most successful if you can answer yes to this question.
It is pretty easy to stay within the four walls of the church and make assumptions about the lives of the people in the broader community. It is more difficult to actually build relationships with community residents and grow in your understanding of their needs and desires. It takes more time, too.
There are tremendous advantages, however, to building your congregation’s ministries on what the community says it wants. If you take the time to build these relationships, your congregation will focus its efforts on meeting unmet needs rather than duplicating what other groups are already doing. You will also have a strong foundation for sustaining your programs; strong relationships with your community make it easier to recruit participants and volunteers and raise money.
Read the rest here.