Guest Post | Mitch Comstedt | Neighborhood Pastor
5 PRINCIPLES I LEARNED IN MY FIRST YEAR OF NEIGHBORHOOD MINISTRY
When it comes to serving as a Neighborhood Pastor I’m still a newbie. However, I am reaching my neighbors, praying for my neighbors, serving my neighbors and leading a neighborhood group for years. I love my neighbors and I desperately want them to come to know Jesus. A year ago I was tasked with figuring out what Neighborhood Ministry means at Rocky Mountain Christian Church. The following are the top 5 principles I have learned in Neighborhood Ministry my first year.
Know The WHY
One of the most crucial things you can do in any ministry is to know WHY you are doing the thing you’re doing. The “why” behind the “what” will help to keep you focused and motivated in the right direction. If you don’t know “why” you are doing what you’re doing in ministry, stop right now. Pray. Seek God. Do some research and figure out the “why.” Our neighborhood team took four months to read, research and talk with other churches before nailing down the why and the “what” of Neighborhood Ministry.
So, what is the WHY? For us the why is the vision and values of the ministry. Our vision for Neighborhood Ministry is “to have a community of believers getting to know Jesus and love like Him in every neighborhood in our area.” This sentence helps us focus on what is most important, what to say yes and no to, gives us reason to press on, and helps us to know if we are winning or losing. What’s your why?
Value Based Training
This principle is huge! We met with a couple of churches that literally cut everything to start pursuing launching small groups in neighborhoods. They cut men’s ministry, women’s ministry, singles ministry, blow up their small group system, and other side ministries that would get in the way of neighborhood ministry. This is really bold, and both churches said they wouldn’t do it like that again. Both churches lost almost 20% of their people and ticked off a lot of other people.
One of the neighborhood pastors recommended that we start with value based training. Practically speaking that means:
- The lead pastor talking about reaching his neighbors and encouraging others to do the same.
- Make it a priority and expectation for the church that we are going to be the best neighbors our neighbors have ever had.
- Have resources available for people. We hand out Neighborhood Action Guides three times a year around prime times to meet your neighbors (summer, Halloween and Christmas).
- I met one-on-one with all of our current small group leaders to ask them how their group was going and to cast the vision and values of groups moving forward. I let them know that we won’t ask them to break up their group; however, I do ask all groups to pray for their neighbors and plan one event in someone’s neighborhood each semester. If the group is willing to accept new people into their group, I only place people into the group who live near the host’s home.
- At all group-training events, I invite Neighborhood Group Leaders and current Small Group Leaders. We discuss some general small group items, but I always work in neighborhood values.
Launch Groups Not Campaigns
This is the newest principle I have learned. Twice now we have run campaigns and encouraged the church to sign up to be in a Neighborhood Group. We have had an overwhelming response both times. In September we launched 20 new Neighborhood Groups, but had over a hundred people sign up to be in a neighborhood group. This has lead to having large groups, not enough groups, and realizing that the location of the people signing up is not necessarily the location of our Neighborhood Groups. Needless to say it’s been a little chaotic over the past couple of months.
This experience has led me to this principle of launching groups, not campaigns. Moving forward I would like to find, recruit, train and walk alongside these leaders as they launch groups in various neighborhoods. Then we would let the people who go to our church know that there is a group in their neighborhood. This provides for more of an organic feel, and not a bum rush of people looking for a group that doesn’t yet exist. Eventually, when we have a group in all of the major neighborhoods we pull from, then we could run more campaigns.
This principle seems obvious, but it’s worth noting. If you and your staff are not loving their neighbors and launching a neighborhood group, how can you expect the rest of the church too? If you are the lead pastor or neighborhood pastor, beat the drum weekly. Meet with staff members to talk about how they love their neighbors, ask them when they are planning on launching a neighborhood group, and discuss what they are doing to integrate the neighborhood priority into their ministry. So, how are you living this out?
Stick With It
Recently I have had to remind myself of the WHY and to stick with it. There will be times when you feel like you are pushing a rope, herding cats, and taking two steps forward and three backwards. Changing a culture is difficult and takes time. You and other staff members may be tempted to look at the progress after a year and wonder whether the ministry is working or not. My encouragement is to remind yourself of the why, celebrate wins along the way and know that change takes time.