05 Dec Meeting the Felt Needs of Your Community by Gary Hart
Every community is different. There are felt needs that perhaps no one is addressing. Can you imagine the power and the influence a body of believers could have in their city if they connected with those needs?
As pastors, it’s critical that we do a little bit of research on the towns and cities God has planted us in. We have to ask important questions, go to the police department, or go to Social Services and find out what people are struggling with, what they are dealing with. Then we must ask ourselves how we can help.
One of the things that my church discovered here in Great Falls, MT, is that we had approximately 500 middle school and high school students who were classified as homeless. That seems crazy to me! They’re either living out of their cars, or they’re couch surfing at their friends’ homes. Our hearts were just drawn to that need.
The need moved us to partner with another local agency to create a youth resource center where homeless students could come, get a hot meal, and take a shower. We created a computer lab where they could do their homework. We added drug and alcohol prevention groups to help kids deal with those issues. We created parenting seminars and so much more.
A lot of our church people volunteer at the youth resource center, cooking meals or tutoring students and the like. Here’s one of the other really cool things that came out of our outreach: At the time our partnership with this organization began, we as a church were in transition. We had built a new ministry facility, and we needed to sell our old one. Well, guess who needed a building? Exactly! The very organization that we were partnering with to create a youth resource center! We were able to negotiate a deal with them to purchase our building. It was a tremendous blessing to us, but it was also exactly what they needed. We saw God’s hand orchestrating everything because we were willing to address a felt need in our community. God opened the doors, He connected the people, and it’s been an incredible blessing for our church to take part in.
Our people love the stories that we tell about what a difference this youth resource center is making in the lives of young people in our community. I can’t imagine having missed this opportunity to love our community in a tangible way. It is priceless!
The needs are there in your city. There are issues just like our homeless students that perhaps no one else is addressing. Find the felt needs. Discover which ones fit your DNA. Where do you feel like God is leading and directing you? I promise He’ll open those doors for you.
You know, several of the people who are on the youth recreation center board are members of our church. Through their involvement, the outreach began to expand and new opportunities to minister were born. That’s what happens when you invite creativity from your team and your church family.
I’m firmly convinced as a pastor that the local church can do anything –as long as they have two things: 1) leadership and 2) resources. Sometimes I think we are hesitant to ask for ideas for fear that people will have an idea and then expect you as the pastor or your team to pull it off. That can happen from time to time. They have a great idea, but they want you to handle it. If it’s a God idea, and God is calling your church to do it, then God will provide the leadership for it. Maybe that’s the person who brought the idea to you. That’s why I always bring the idea back around to them and say, “This is a great idea. How can we pull it off? Can you give some leadership to it?”
This summer, we had a desire to do a few things in terms of community outreach, but we needed leadership to step in and run with our plans. God gave us the team members we needed, and it was so nice as a pastor to hear the idea and then see people stepping up to the plate and volunteering, “Let’s pull this off together!” I didn’t have to be behind it. I just supported it, I encouraged it, I cheerlead-ed (if that’s a word) it. They ran with it. And God blessed them and did incredible things with their gifts and their vision.
You can be sure that if it’s God’s idea, then God will resource it, both financially and with workers or volunteers. I really believe that! If God’s calling you to it, He’s going to supply everything you need to see it come to pass.
Back in 2021, we did two things that I felt were prompted by the Lord. First, we opened our spirit, and in faith and generosity, sowed some major financial seeds into missions and ministries. For many years, we played it safe as a congregation, giving when we felt like we had the money to give. God challenged me to get seed in the ground, to start sowing. We went from giving $500 or $1,000 here or there to sowing radical seeds of $10,000 here and $10,000 there. I figured eventually we would run out of resources, but it didn’t happen! God just kept supplying, and our income kept going up!
That’s when I stopped making appeals during the tithe and offering, as far as teaching a scriptural principle as to why people needed to give. I just started thanking people for their financial partnership and sharing with them what their giving was doing. We still teach the principles of tithing in our membership class, and I will talk about it every once in a while on a Sunday morning, but as far as teaching weekly on why people need to give, we just don’t do it. It’s been amazing what has happened since: Our giving has gone off the charts! I can’t even explain it to you. We just finished our fiscal year, and it’s been the most outrageous financially blessed year we have ever had as a ministry!
I believe the same will be true for you if you will seek out creativity from your team and draw creative people around you who have an outreach mindset. Let them help you.
Let me just say this, pastor: Give yourself a break. You don’t have to come up with all the great ideas yourself. You’ve got people on your team and in your congregation who have amazing creativity. Give them some ownership and watch what they will do when they discover the felt needs of your community.