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A Visible Presence

If you’re planting a church, think for a minute how your church will have a visible presence in your community beyond Sunday morning. Where will its collective presence be felt Monday through Saturday? Many established churches are visible in their community during the week because they have a building. However, if you’re a portable church meeting in rented space you don’t have that luxury. You’ll need to be strategic and intentional to be visible in your community seven days a week. For ideas and inspiration on how to be visible in your community every day continue reading. 

The outreach strategy you develop and implement during the pre-launch stage of your church will shape the outreach culture of your church for years to come. Don’t foolishly think you can flip a switch one day and develop a culture of outreach overnight. That takes time and effort. The most effective way to achieve it is by doing it early before the rhythm of weekly worship gatherings begin to dominate the culture. 

New Life Christian Church in Northern Virginia fostered this outreach culture by hosting Easter Egg Extravaganzas and Fall Fun Fests in the school they met in on Sunday mornings. Those events lead to backyard VBS events hosted by families of the church and later a Fun Truck, which the church filled with free ice cream treats for giveaways, inflatables and lawn games they would set up at community events. With the help of their Fun Truck, New Life has served thousands of families in their community. 

All these outreach initiatives shaped the externally-focused culture at New Life. Being a church that was focused on reaching their community with the gospel by creating safe places where people discovered God, New Life ended up buying an abandoned Budweiser distribution center and turned it into a community sports complex. While some church members wondered why the church would invest millions of dollars into a building not for the church, but for the community, most of the church got behind the idea and united to create the nZone. Every year around 300,000 individuals walk through the doors of the nZone to play soccer, work out, participate in Bible studies, and among many other things, attend church planter training events. One such church planter is Kevin McNeil. 

Kevin was a part of the 2019-2020 Passion for Planting Distance Residency Cohort (which is now accepting applications for the next cohort starting in September 2021). He’s planting Canvas Church in Goldsboro, NC. When he was in the cohort, he visited the nZone where the Fun Truck was parked. When he saw the truck and heard about all the ways the church was able to serve the community with it, he decided Canvas needed one to help them build bridges between their church plant and the community. 

One of the first purchases Kevin made for Canvas was an old mail truck, which he and a couple launch team members turned into a snow cone truck. They only had six people on their launch team at the time (including Kevin and his wife), but with this truck they invaded Goldsboro and gave out free snow cones to residents and told them about the new church. 

One of the first people they met was a young lady we’ll call “Anna”. When Kevin met Anna, her marriage was in shambles. News of a new church and meeting Kevin gave her some hope and people to turn to for wisdom and encouragement. Anna ended up connecting with the Canvas Church team and introduced her husband to Kevin. Her husband, “Jared”, also didn’t see much hope for their marriage and sought Kevin out for marital advice. Kevin shared with him the hope of the gospel and the power of forgiveness that leads to reconciliation. Shortly after connecting with Kevin and hearing the power of the gospel, Jared surrendered his life to Christ in the waters of baptism. He was the first person to make this decision at Canvas. This happened because of a conversation that was started through their snow cone truck outreach. 

How is your church making its presence known in your community? When your community hears your church’s name, do they have a positive reaction because of all the good you’re doing for it? Don’t be your community’s best kept secret. Serve it and inspire others to join you in that effort. Learn from New Life, Canvas Church and Finnigan’s brewery in Minneapolis, who recently developed a Reverse Food Truck to serve their city and invite others to join them. You don’t need to have a building or a truck to have a visible presence in your community. Start small. Be faithful with what God’s entrusted to you by sharing your time, talents, gifts, and passions with your neighbors. Take one step of faith at a time and you may be surprised where God leads you.