Last week, a few members of our External Focus team attended a conference about how Christians can impact and develop their communities. Among all the seminars and workshops, one of the messages that impacted me the most came from a session I wasn't really "supposed" to attend.
The "Mega-Church vs. Mega-Impact" workshop was for people serving in smaller churches and rural churches - not big churches like ours. Here's how the speakers, Juan Pena and Jason Janz, described their talk:
90% of all churches have less than 350 people. ...[M]ost church leaders will never experience leading a mega church, and that's ok! In fact, it may be better. A small group of people committed to a philosophy of "deep roots" is the answer for American neighborhoods. Come and learn about the deep beauty and extraordinary impact of long-term, place-based ministry.
The speakers weren't "anti" big churches like Watermark, but they did imply that huge churches like ours can struggle to impact neighborhoods well.
And they're absolutely right.
Better Get Small
If we want to reach the little neighborhoods all throughout our city really well, there's only one hope: Watermark's got to shrink.
The good news? We already have.
The weekend worship services - what I used to call "big church" as a kid - are not the primary place "church" happens. We can't practice the "one anothers" of Scripture or "do life together" very well at weekend services. And "big church" isn't the best way to reach our neighborhoods, either. Neither is a church-wide service project, a corporate "neighborhood impact fund," or paying the staff to reach neighborhoods for all of us.
No, it will take smaller "versions" of our church to impact neighborhoods best.
So how does a huge church "shrink" so it can reach neighborhoods well? Four ways come to mind: households, neighbors, Ministry Partners, and Community Groups.
Households: Families & roomies on mission
Whether it's made up of a young couple, a family with a bunch of kids, or some Jesus-loving roommates, every household has been set in a particular place. And they have the potential to impact their neighborhood in amazing ways. And this is true whether you live in a cul-de-sac, an apartment complex, or the rural countryside.
To get you started, the External Focus team offers some great resources for reaching your neighbors. One guide shares how to throw a block party or other get-together, one gives step-by-step Backyard Bible Club instructions, and one simply shares 98 ideas - from Watermark people! - for serving your neighbors.
Neighbors: Those already in your mission field
Have you found other Watermark members - or Christians from other great churches - on your street or in your neighborhood? If so, have you ever considered reaching your neighborhood together?
Neighborhood impact means doing more than putting crosses in our front yards or decorating our apartment balconies for Christmas. We can connect with other believers, pray together, and strategize how God might use us to reach the neighbors we share. (You can even use the same tools I linked above!)
Ministry Partners: Bridges to neighborhoods in need
One way the larger body of Watermark helps its members reach neighborhoods is by developing Ministry Partners.
As you serve with our partners, you get the chance to connect with other Watermark members (and other believers) to reach a neighborhood with particular needs. Right now, you can deeply impact specific neighborhoods in Fort Worth, Plano, Dallas, and Richardson. (And we're always open to adding new partners in new places!)
In some cases, Watermark people have even chosen to move their families into one of these neighborhood of great need - in order to be "on mission" in a deep and powerful way.
Ready to love a neighborhood in need? You can find all our Ministry Partners here.
Community Groups: Doing life - and mission - together
As we say time and time again, Community Groups are the best expression of biblical church around Watermark.
And they're really great headquarters for neighborhood mission.
Some groups will choose to reach a neighborhood together, especially if they live in close proximity to each other. Over time, they can develop relationships in their chosen neighborhood, work to be a blessing to it, and see what fruit God wants to grow.
Other Community Groups may support each other, push each other, even finance each other as members reach their own neighborhoods in the ways described above.
Either way, think of the stories you'll share if each member of your Community Group truly invests in impacting a neighborhood! Don't forget, "engaging missionally" is meant to be a core value of Community Groups. Is it one of yours?
We followed up this post with three points on HOW you can help make this "shrinking Watermark" happen. Read that post here.
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