I had the opportunity to worship at the Chicago Temple, First UMC in downtown Chicago. There is a ton of great history with this church, which still boast the highest steeple above street level in the world and the highest point of worship above street level in the world (Chapel in the Sky, Guinness Book of World Records).
This church also has the distinction of being the oldest church in the city of Chicago.
As the pastor showed us around, he, with wisdom, said, “most of our ministry is determined by our location.”
Their building is situated (and has been located) on Clark and Washington for a century and a half. It’s known as the Methodist Corner. It’s right near several government and business buildings. It’s right across the street from a plaza that is host to many cultural events and city ceremonies.
He talked about how their church reaches out to people who are in their neighborhood, how they have had to adjust ministry toward their little corner of the city and how they have to be a church that not only reaches the regular attendees, but the 50-75 folks who just show up curious every Sunday. They have special worship services for their community such as Jazz, High Church, Taize, etc. They have support groups for almost everything you can think of when it comes to inner city life. They even have a 24 hour security guard station as you enter the building.
It’s not a mega church – there about 475 who worship there on a regular basis, about 1100 members. But you don’t have to be a huge church to reach your community around you. In fact, sometimes, in that regard, smaller is better.
Following the service, the day we were there, they had an ice cream social on the sidewalk outside the building. There were tons of people just wandering by and it was a great success. That week, there was going to be a huge festival that would be taking place in the plaza. During the morning worship, the pastor prayed specifically for that festival and their part in showing God’s love to people during it.
So, what ministry is going in your church that is determined by your location? There is probably more than you think. But still, it’s a good question. So often, we look to other successful churches to see what we should or shouldn’t be doing. In reality, your community has you and you have your community. Be confident you are where you are for a reason. Be faithful to be the church to the people in your little corner of the world. Here are some random thoughts in no particular order:
Know the People: Do you know the people in the 10 minute radius around your church facility? Take a survey, formal or informal. Take a drive around the community asking the question, what do I see? What can we observe? How can we be helpful and extend God’s love to someone in a tangible way? What are the immediate and obvious needs?
Partner: Talk with others who are serving in the community and partner with them. Is someone doing homeless ministry or a food bank? Jump on board, donate, support, assist.
Style of Ministry: What is the best way to reach the people in your community or region? How does that determine your style of outreach? Your style of worship? Your style of publicity and promotion?
Be Leaders: So often, Christians don’t put much of a priority on civic roles and duties. We need Christians to stand up as they are serving on the school board, the park board, the city government, and at special events, rallies and other avenues. We need to lift up the name of Jesus and be the body of Christ in the world.
If your church closed it’s doors today, would anyone in the community notice?