By R. Duane Cragun
In last week’s article I spoke about the need for a small town pastor, (or any pastor for that matter,) to listen and learn from the people, to understand what it is that they see as a need and areas to be addressed in the church and in the community as a whole. This week we are going to go a step beyond learning and move to the next phase, Evaluation.
Once we have discovered areas to address in the church and its ministry then we need move on to the task of Evaluation. In this stage of Evaluation, we start doing two things, both equally important. We pray for guidance in evaluating our ability to meet said needs, and then we pray for His provision to make it a reality.
My pastor friend I mentioned last week was going through some difficult times trying to do everything he had been taught. Yet, when I talked to him he seemed unaware of ether some basic needs of his church or community, or what resources he had or did not have to try to meet those needs. Listening was something he had not developed, so I asked him to do this for a month and then get back with me. When he called back he was better informed about his situation, but was still unsure about how to work towards meeting these needs. In his situation, a major need was developing a stronger and larger youth group. He said “What can I do, I don’t have a gym?” Guess what, neither did I. When I tried to address getting kids off the streets, I also thought about structured activities, so I evaluated what I did and did not have. What I did not have was a Gym or large space, our little town did not even have a park in it. What we did have were several people that also saw this as a major need in our community, many of whom offered to help me in this cause. We also had a school with a playground which was to be used only for school activities.
So what did this evaluation lead us to? I took this the discovered need and facts about the high levels of young people getting into trouble in the community, and I shared these findings with the local School board, the American Legions and the local Sheriff’s Department. What came out of this were the following things.
The School decided to partner with us in two ways: (1) They allowed us to rent the school’s gym and playground areas during the warmer weather, for a very small fee, and listed it as community involvement. They even waved the normal insurance user fees for us. (2) They helped me advertise this once every two-week activity night within the school’s system.
The American Legion decided to help fund some of the cost for our community youth activities.
The local Sheriff’s Department would sometimes send an officer by, simply to work on building relationships with these kids that only saw them as the bad guys.
We had such a large positive impact that the local community store started donating soda pop to be given to the young people.
Members of the church came down and assisted at our activity nights.
Finally, the people went from being groups of people that happened to live in the same area, to a group building a community.
How did all happen? By evaluating both the need and how to best address that need.
No church can do everything, but with a great deal of prayer and evaluating the situation we can decide what we need to focus our efforts on and how to attempt meet that need. Like a very good friend, Dr. Jim Dunn used to tell me, “Keep the gold and get rid of the dirt.” Discover what is needed and how to achieve the goals that the Lord gives you. Through His grace, you can make a difference!