When I was little and on up until I left home, I attended a church in a rural small town. It had exactly one purpose, and the purpose was to exist as a place of worship. Worship and services and fellowships happened there, and that was all that happened there.
But churches have changed a lot over the years.
The church I attend now is many things: a coffee shop, an athletic facility, a community meeting place, a preschool, and a place where crafting classes are held. It is also, not least among these things, a place of worship, too. And it seems that most churches have followed this example, expanding outward in an effort to draw in more people.
By and large, I think this is a great thing. I know a lot of parents and families who began attending churches because of the church’s sports leagues for children; I know a lot of men who began attending churches through ATV gatherings and sportsmen’s clubs. When the church becomes more than a place of worship, it provides a place both for believers to fellowship together in many ways and for non-believers to approach God’s house through a non-intimidating entry point.
However, I do fear that as increasing activities encourage us to spend more and more time in the church building, our time in the world is shrinking. And that is a dangerous thing. Out in the world is where we will meet most non-believers; out in the world is where we can serve most non-believers. If we sit in our churches and exercise in our churches and drink coffee in our churches and craft in our churches and have book clubs in our churches and we wait for the world to come to us, we’re missing out on a lot of ministry and a lot of service.
Unfortunately, going “out in the world” to serve and love can intimidate many believers. There are some Christians who really only know other Christians, and don’t know how to forge personal connections with those not involved at the church. There are some Christians who consider going “out in the world” to be launching a soup can into the food drive, ignoring the fact that Christ’s own life demonstrates the importance of personal connection and engagement. And there are some Christians who really want to get out in the world and serve, and simply don’t know where to start.
In this post today, I thought I’d offer some ideas. If you’re interested in expanding your Christian life of service beyond the walls of your church – and you should be! – here are some things you can do that will allow you to engage with others and serve them in a meaningful way:
- Mentoring/guidance programs, like Big Brother/Big Sister or Compeer (this is especially great if you like working with kids in your community)
- Your local library: many, many libraries need volunteers for their various programs, and it’s a good way to get to know local people (especially families)
- A community soup kitchen or food pantry (devote your time, along with materials)
- A local club, class, or gathering group in your hobby or area of interest (this will introduce you to lots of different kinds of people! Check your town/city webpage for ideas or go to meetup.com)
- Local schools (they, too, often need volunteers, homework helpers, and tutors)
- A civic group in your community
- Condo boards and homeowners’ associations
- Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or hospitals (you might have to check in advance w/hospitals, but many are welcoming of volunteers or visitors, especially around Christmas, and nursing homes are always happy to welcome people who are willing to bring joy!)
- Shelters and kennels (they love volunteers and support!)
Again, these are just a few examples – if you can think of others, please share them in the comments! Remember, Christ placed His church here to be His hands and feet; we were commanded to go out and to serve, and we can do that in a myriad of ways outside the church walls as well as in.
Don’t be afraid to go out in the world and make connections; you’ll be surprised by how God blesses the effort.