In my (limited) experience, church people work together to connect with the world mainly in two ways: to tell about Jesus, and to share our money. Mostly, we give our money to other groups working to tell about Jesus or fight poverty.
Sharing Jesus and sharing money are good things to do. If you are doing these things, I support you.
But I think we are overlooking something important.
Here is the church.
Here is the steeple.
Open the doors and
See all the people!
If you go to church most weeks, do you ever think about how many people you know because of church? People who attend church regularly have, on average, more face-to-face conversations every day than people who don’t. Churchgoers know more people and are involved in more community activities than other folks.*
Some of these social connections help us get by day-to-day with child care and meals when we’re sick. Some of these connections are bridges to opportunities for new jobs, new interests, new possibilities of all kinds. The church is a bustling hub of these kinds of connections.
Here’s the kicker: the church’s social energies have turned inward in the last few decades. We generously serve on church committees, help church friends find jobs, and volunteer time at church. We do not give as much time, leadership, and networking to the community outside the church.
Poverty is characterized by limited social connections. Turning more of our considerable time and resources out toward the larger community is an important way to address poverty. When Christians volunteer for community agencies, or attend school board meetings, or serve in local government, or mentor people working to move out of poverty, that is working for justice.
We need to share more of ourselves. I don’t mean share more of yourself, with just the knowledge, time, and patience God gave you. I mean ourselves. We go into the world with the resources of our entire church community. Let’s look for ways to share that wealth of social connectedness with our neighbors who are living in the crisis of poverty.
*From Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000) by Robert D. Putnam.