How One Church Re-engaged the Neighborhood

What can we do to survive?

Thus began a conversation ten years ago with a dying church in a transitional neighborhood that wanted to re-engage the community.

The church invited me to do some Evangelism Consulting with them about launching a new worship service.

Missional Community

The average age of church members was 60, and they wanted more young people.

They were in survival mode and needed something new to get new people.

Is a new worship service the way to Re-Engage?

The pastor wanted a new worship service.

The congregational elders didn’t.

The leadership was divided.

I needed to help them see beyond that debate and led them into a brainstorming process.

How they re-engaged

Out of that brainstorming process they decided to do a block party.

A block party was one of many ideas they tossed out in the brainstorming session.

The leadership team was energized to carry it out.

Church members got excited about the block party and began praying.

Members hung door hangers around the neighborhood.

Members invited the local community to come.

Pastor helped with the momentum building.  (See How Pastors Lead Congregational Evangelism #4).

They had food, games, inflatables, and so on.

It was a big event that spurred some new invitations and energy.

How the Block Party Re-engaged the Church

As a result of that block party 10 years ago (and its continued annual repeats) this church has discerned the neighborhood needs.

They have re-engaged the community.

They have launched several new ministries to reconnect with the neighbors:

  • Preschool (now with an annual budget larger than the church’s).
  • Meals on Wheels.
  • Neighborhood Watch
  • And other ministries.

This church has become much more missional in it’s mindset and has lots of new vitality and energy to serve.

As a result, they’ve focused less on the attractional elements and more on the missional elements to help them re-connect with the neighborhood.

See Moving from Attactional to Missional.

Here is the next step:

Now they are being more intentional about actively sharing their faith along with serving the area.

This is where more intentional evangelism training will come into play.

The church needs to engage with actions, but also be able to explain how they are different than the rotary club.

See Is Neighborhood Outreach Evangelism?

Let me ask you this?

What outreach did your church do that helped you re-engage the neighborhood?

What were some fruits that developed out of that connection?

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  1. says

    Chris, I believe churches have to get out of the “If you build it, they will come” mindset. The attractional church usually only pulls in other Christians who are unhappy with their current church. It is not appealing to the lost. The church must go it if it expects the lost to come in. Good post.

  2. Todd says

    Excellent post. Isreal was God’s people- a light to the Gentiles whioh was supposed to draw the nations to Christ. The new Isreal is sent into the nations to bring people to Christ. Thanks.

  3. says

    Our Chicago suburb requires us to build bridges that people are willing to cross 75% of the new people in our church are unchurched who have been touched through one of our bridge events.
    We do a combo block/back to school party. It includes live music (80%secular 20% Christian) food and events for the children.
    We aren’t trying to lead them to the Lord (YET) we just want to become part of their lives, which in turn opens door for sharing the gospel.

  4. Derek Iannelli-Smith says

    Good article. Reminds me of some other influences recently Tim Chester/Steve Timmis and Frank Viola’s work. The total church conference recently done at Kaleo (audios are on the web) addresses this topic very well. It is not either or… it is both…

    If a ‘church’ is going to be missional, then I believe they need to get away from the ‘come and see’ and remember the ‘see and go’ or as we call it at Oasis…. drink and go… investing in people without an agenda other than to participate in God’s plan to move onto the next step takes time.

    I am not talking about friendship evangelism, I am talking about intentional gospel-centered evangelism.

  5. Elliot says

    Makes perfect sense (now here is the “but”) What if the congregation isn’t willing to re-engage? I see many churches close their doors in my denomination each year because they won’t, can’t, or say they don’t have the “right” pastor (leadership) to do so. Sounds like leadership from within the church (laity) needs to embrace the Holy Spirit’s leading?

  6. says


    Thanks for sharing what your church does. Building relational bridges are still important for attractional models as well as churches working the missional culture. I think healthy churches need both.

    Thanks for pointing out the both/and. I’ve been reading The Tangible kingdom and it contains many of these same themes. Currently planting a church from scratch and working the missional angle as we are still small.

    I’ve seen congregations that won’t re-engage. I’ve seen Pastors try to lead, but they don’t want to follow — one party eventually leaves. I’ve seen pastors work to help bring the grumblers along, but Crandalls work shows that after the pastor leaves, the church stumbles again.

    Thanks all for sharing your thoughts. Keep it up . .

  7. says

    Great post!

    So the church used an “attractional” to get to “missional!” Common sense tells me making it attractional VERSUS missional, or making them mutually exclusive is wrong. It’s not an either/or, it’s both/and…

    I’m not at all surprised to see that churches that really are engaging their communities and reaching people for Christ are doing some of both.

  8. says

    Great post, Chris. Block parties are a great way to reach out in many neighborhoods. The church can help build and restore relationships.


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