Trying to become someone else’s church

The virtual and social media worlds and our church’s ministry–Part III of a series

By Rev. Rick King

At a meeting of people from our various ministry teams last night, a lot of our conversation focused on how to get face-to-face with people in our neighborhood, and how to rebuild the sense of community at Falcon Heights Church that’s been through the pandemic wringer for more than two years.

This is heartening to me. Too often, I observe churches wanting to innovate by imitating another church’s success, as though there was some kind of formula that can be replicated in different settings.

Canadian pastor, trainer and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof, whom I’ve quoted to you before, cautions against this approach, which has become all the more ubiquitous and tempting to adopt as the social media presence of certain churches that are doing especially well in their mission—even UCC churches—shows us what they’re doing in their ministry context.

He warns leaders about the same thing in the ways they use social media: If we are on social media simply hoping to pick up followers, we run the risk not only of getting out of touch with the flesh-and-blood relationships within our congregations and communities that should be our main focus, but we can fall prey to imitating others’ approach, trying to become a church that we’re not.

Jesus started with people’s needs—hunger, healing, learning—to build his ministry of teaching and preaching the love of God. And he was most of all tuned into the needs of the poor and outcast, those whom the religious leaders of the day had left behind as they vied for earthly power and self-preservation.

At our meeting last night, above all, I was heartened by the fact that our conversation was focused on how we can more firmly root ourselves in our immediate neighborhood, so that any innovations in ministry methods or new programming initiatives arise organically from the soil in which we are planted in Falcon Heights, Roseville, North Como Park, and Lauderdale.

What unmet needs do YOU see around where our church is located? I’d love to hear from you!