Keri Ladouceur and Katie Matsumoto Moore join Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman on ChurchPulse Weekly to talk about practical ways to mobilize volunteers around community causes, redefining engagement beyond a church building and local churches can reach their cities as the New Year arrives.
On Engaging Your Community
When Barna interviewed churchgoers, two out of every five (40%) strongly agree their church offers opportunities to make a difference in the local community.
Thinking on how her church serves locally, Moore offers some ideas of how congregations can serve their city. “We get to partner with [the city] on something called Love Our City Days,” she notes. “They do city cleanups and city events that we come out in full force and provide volunteers for. [There’s also] things like visiting the mayor during her open office hours, making her aware of who our church is and asking how we can support her in whatever it is that she’s doing.”
Ladouceur has gotten to see the impact of her church’s efforts around racial justice and reconciliation. She shares about a recent conversation with a man on a plane where she talked about the work her church is doing in this area. She says, “At the end of our flight together, he said, ‘My friends and I, and even colleagues and I, are trying to figure out our work when it comes to racial unity in the world […] I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that the Church would actually be further down the road in trying to figure this out than my buddies and I.”
On Returning to a Hybrid Reality
Ladouceur and Moore talk about the tensions they’ve faced as they return to in-person church gatherings once again.
Moore says, “We have tried really hard to create […] very similar opportunities to connect for both communities, the online and the in-person.” She continues, “We have tried to be very open in our language of, ‘If you’re ready to be in-person, we’re ready for you. If you’re not ready, we still have this incredible opportunity for you to join us online.’”
Ladouceur shares, “As we began to regather, we shifted the model to say, instead of one church in multiple locations, we want to be one church with multiple expressions […] We’re trying to reimagine the model, and we were intentional to not diminish what was happening online.”
Both Ladouceur and Moore speak to the importance of building an online community that moves beyond just consuming content. Moore notes that gathering has taken on new forms during this time, saying, “The Church is not a building, It’s a people. Instead of you coming to just receive, how do you go and be the Church wherever you are, whether it’s in your living room, whether it’s in someone’s backyard?”
On Involvement by Generational Differences
When Barna asked U.S. adults what they would personally like to get involved with in their community, the top responses were homeless services (46%), companionship for the elderly (44%) and access to health care services (41%).
One universal desire that Moore has seen in her church is the longing for community. Moore says, “There are a lot of younger families who are desiring community in-person again. Going back to one of the statistics about companionship for the elderly, I think there was just a loneliness element there too.”
Ladouceur has also noticed a need for difference in how her church articulates the engagement opportunities being offered to congregants. She notes, “When it comes to racial dynamics, when it comes to climate change, accessibility or even our part to play in justice […] I’m finding how we articulate the invitation is different generationally.”
She continues, “For some of our older generations, it’s reframing the fullness of the invitation of the gospel. […] We’re being really intentional about what language we use in that and how we can compel some of the older generations to realize these are core gospel things, whether it’s equality in our healthcare, accessibility to food or what biblical justice looks like. The invitation is different for each generation.”
About the Research
Barna Cities: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2.0 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021