How well do you know the neighborhood or community around your church? Most of us feel that we know it rather well. After all, we do go to church there. Neighborhoods and communities, however, usually change over time. Churches change, too, but typically at a slower rate. In many cases, the longer a church has been in a neighborhood, the less it resembles it. In most cases, a church needs to be very purposeful to maintain accurate perceptions about its community.
One great starting point is to use demographic information. In the Central Texas Conference, members of our churches have access to MissionInsite—a powerful demographic tool. Once you create a free account, you can access numerous reports about your church’s neighborhood and surrounding community. For example, in the QuickInsite or ExecutiveInsite reports, you can discover population trends, racial/ethnic composition, estimated income, etc. In the Quad report, you can read about projections of likely religious beliefs, practices, and preferences.
When considering demographic data, the challenge is for your church to apply the discovered insights to what the church will do in the future. In some ways, the amount of data can be overwhelming. I suggest starting with a few basic questions:
- Is the population increasing or decreasing?
- How will the racial/ethnic composition influence ministry offerings?
- How is the neighborhood doing economically?
Use these insights as a part of your church’s planning cycle.
Moving beyond demographic reports, there’s no better way to get to know your church’s neighborhood (and the neighborhood’s perception of the church) than actually talking to people in the community. Visit some local businesses and talk to the owners or managers. What can they tell you about the neighborhood? What needs or challenges do they see? Engage some of the patrons in conversation. Ask them if they know anything about your church.
By correcting possible misperceptions about the neighborhood, your church will better position itself to successfully make disciples and serve the community in appropriate ways. Enjoy getting to know your neighborhood!