Bless this Neighborhood!

This Sunday is Baseball Sunday at Spring Valley! Wear your Rangers gear- even if you are not attending the ballgame. The sermon is titled “Life Lessons from Baseball,” and the choir and John Tarver are sharing baseball-themed music. It’s also the debut of ukulele music!  The following Sunday a new series begins- Bless this Neighborhood. When I first learned of my appointment to this amazing community I began thinking of ways our congregation could build relationships with our neighbors. I have already been intentionally visiting local businesses (within walking distance- even in this heat!), trying to order food in very broken Spanish. I will get there!

The series will run August 13 – September 3. We will have Bless this Neighborhood Bingo cards for everyone next Sunday. Track how many local businesses you can visit during the series. Prizes will be awarded! When you stop in, leave a postcard, also available next Sunday, with the message, written in English and Spanish, that we are proud to be in this neighborhood and to share God’s love with our neighbors. Join me for a prayer walk around the neighborhood August 17 at 8:00 a.m., and a new study, in person and on Zoom, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. (6 sessions): Taking Church To The Community, beginning August 22. 

Each week for the next five weeks I will include here an excerpt from the article “50 Ways to Take Church to the Community,” published by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC (where I did my doctoral work in preaching). Here are the first ten tips for community engagement:

1. Learn to regard your community as an extension of your congregation. A church’s mission field goes beyond its membership to include all the people God calls it to serve. You are connected to individuals who never set foot in your building.

2. Know that what’s happening within the church — preaching, worship, music, Bible study — is no longer enough to attract people in an age when church attendance is no longer a cultural expectation.

3. Don’t sit in your church building waiting for people to come. Be prepared to meet people where they are.

4. Acknowledge the synergy between the Great Commandment in Matthew 22 (love your neighbor as yourself) and the Great Commission in Matthew 28 (go and make disciples). Evangelistic outreach expresses our love of others.

5. Remember that Jesus primarily engaged people through everyday encounters, rather than in the Temple or synagogues. He fed people, met their everyday needs, and enjoyed the fellowship of others.

6. Express love and compassion for your community in big and small ways. Avoid judgmentalism.

7. Pray regularly for your neighbors and lift up community concerns.

8. Attend to the faith formation of existing members. Willingness to share faith and reach out to others develops as one grows in faith and discipleship.

9. Prepare spiritually for the transformation that creative, risk-taking outreach will bring.

10. Review demographic data from public, private, and denominational sources, but don’t assume that statistics alone will tell the whole story.

Every church needs to strengthen its relationship to its parish. Hopefully at the end of this series, and over the coming months, we will return to these local restaurants and businesses and ask, “Do you know where Spring Valley United Methodist Church is?” and hear a “YES” or “SI!”