Ministering Where You Live

7 08 2011

by JOHN WIGHT, senior president of seventy

Individual preparation and effort is not enough. We especially need congregations that are living expressions of the personality, love, spirit, and mission of Jesus Christ. What we do as congregations must be much more than routine social activities. Where is the love, spirit, and mission of Christ calling us to focus or redirect congregational activity in response to the needs of the people in the community around us? Each congregational activity must be evaluated in terms of its mission alignment and be developed to strengthen mission.

—Steve Veazey video of “The Mission Matters Most!” address
http://www.CofChrist.org/presidency/sermons

As I heard President Veazey utter those words, my mind raced instantly to two tools available to help congregations identify the needs of people in the communities around them. My mind also made a connection with Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a: “For in their welfare resides your welfare.”

The first tool consists of demographic reports available free to congregations in the USA. Produced by the Percept Group, the reports are called First View and Ministry Area Profile. These reports provide valuable insights into the makeup and needs of neighborhoods. They include basics (number of people, age groups, etc.) and information on specific needs and interests that can help identify ministries.

For example, one congregation’s study showed 33 percent of the neighborhood homes were single-mother households (compared to the national average of 23 percent). And 10 percent were single-father households (national average of 7 percent). Such information suggests several possibilities for ministry to meet the needs of single parents.

Another example on many reports involved programs preferred by neighborhood residents. Often the highest interest is for recreational programs. Many people want family activities in a wholesome environment.

The second tool goes hand-in-hand with the first. It is a six-question, seventy-developed community survey conducted door-to-door. The first question directly addresses President Veazey’s admonition: What do you think are the greatest needs in this neighborhood?

Congregational responses to this question have resulted in ministries ranging from a Jesus and Me Club for children to a series of so-called Town Hall meetings where city officials talked with and answered questions from neighborhood residents.

While the Percept data is available only within the USA, congregations everywhere can use the community survey. These tools and others help congregations “focus or redirect congregational activity in response to the needs of the people in the community around us.” For more information about these and other tools, contact the president of seventy assigned to your field.


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