Church members struggle to engage in the neighborhood they live in. But it’s definitely not impossible.
We identified a simple and effective way to help church members get engaged and to discover God’s plans for the lives of people in your community. We created Neighborhood Connection Groups (NCG).
So what defines a Neighborhood Connection Group?
We define a Neighborhood Connection Group as a group of 6-10 people who have committed, for a limited period of time (at least nine months), to do two things:
1. Participate in a local neighborhood activity.
You could volunteer at a reading club, an exercise class, the local PTA, an investing group, a mom’s group, etc. It could be almost anything. However, don’t forget the number one requirement for this group. It must be completely unrelated to your church or any kind of churchy or spiritual activity. This is—wait for it!—a secular, non-religious activity. Why? So that your church members can begin to listen to people who are disconnected from God. This will help your church members start to discover what God is already doing out in the neighborhood.
2. Engage in a monthly time of reflection with the other NCG participants.
This step is critical. Robert Schreiter, in Constructing Local Theologies, says, “Reflection leads to action, and action is not completed until it has been reflected upon.” The monthly reflection meeting allows the NCG participants to share the stories they heard in their neighborhood groups and to hear stories others are telling. As the group shares, listens, and reflects, a pattern of God’s activity in the neighborhood will begin to emerge.
One last thing. What exactly does the monthly reflection meeting look like? See our outline below:
1. Spend about 20 minutes “dwelling in scripture.”
We read Jeremiah 29:1-14 every time we meet. Then we share with each other how the scripture connected with us that day. What got our attention? What raised a question for us? What resonated with us that day?
2. Share with one another.
Spend about an hour sharing, listening to, and reflecting on one another’s stories from our neighborhood activities.
3. Pray together.
Like dwelling in scripture, this is so important. It connects the work of God in our neighborhood to our hearts. We develop of passion for the people in our neighborhood groups as we pray together for them. And we begin to see God answer those prayers in our neighborhood groups.
The NCG process has helped church members not only begin to engage in the neighborhood, but to develop in themselves a deeper understanding of God’s calling on them to participate in His mission to the world.
Markus Watson is the pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church in San Diego, California. He is just completing a Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary focusing on Missional Leadership. Markus is a contributor to the film review journal, Visual Parables, and the book, Finding Church. Read more from Markus at www.markuswatson.com.