10 Ways to Read Your Community

Ten ways to “read” and know your community

Read your community’s history. Even if no one has written a full history, many communities have published at least a brief record of their story. Learning that story will not only help you understand the history better, but it will also show others your interest in being a genuine part of the community.

 

I have the privilege of hanging out with missionaries, men and women who have learned how to exegete their communities in order to proclaim the gospel in contextualized and relevant ways. I also hang out with local church leaders, though, who often know far too little about the communities they serve. Here are ten ways to “read” your community:

  1. Do a demographic study. I doubt this option is surprising, but I’m amazed by the high percentage of church leaders who don’t know current data about the people in their ministry area. As a church consultant, I often quiz leaders based on our company’s demographic findings – and seldom have I met leaders who know their community well.
  2. Talk to public school officials and teachers. Few people in a community see the reality of life like teachers do. Some daily see the products of crippling poverty, broken homes, and poor choices. Others work with students whose successful families have little need for God. Let these teachers give you a glimpse into the lives around you.
  3. Get to know local government officials. Even if you disagree politically with the leaders, develop friendships with them; you need to know these influencers in your community. They can be reservoirs of information about past community struggles, current needs, and future plans. Plus, they will likely need a pastor at some point in their own lives.
  4. Intentionally spend one day per week in the community. Eat in the restaurants. Visit the local stores. Read in the library. Study at the coffee shop. Volunteer in the school system. Prayerwalk the downtown area. Get out of your office into the community, and what may sound like a wasted day can become pivotal in your ministry.

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