A Sunday School can easily lose its edge of effectiveness if it loses touch with the community it intends to reach. In the following paragraphs I will share a few things I have found helpful in knowing your community. They include:
- Prayer Walking
- Windshield Tours
- Interviewing Community Leaders
- Demographic Study
Prayer Walking – Today, many churches and classes have found it valuable to develop a strategy to prayer walk their community. Nothing substitutes for what leaders and members will notice in the neighborhood when they slowly move through it street by street. Over the years, I have discovered ministry opportunities in the form of poverty, children and apartments. Prayer walking provides focused prayer and surface ministry opportunities.
Windshield Tours – Early in my ministry, my wife and I did a lot of door-to-door surveying. Every effective effort began with mapping the area. The second step was to take the map and drive down all the streets counting the number of housing units. This process reveals traffic patterns, unnoticed housing, areas where children and senior’s live and opportunities for ministering. Your neighborhood will look different after a windshield tour.
Interviewing Community Leaders – Your church is not the only organization concerned about your community. To get the “under the hood” view of your community some interviews are in order. Set up interviews with school principals, the police department, the fire department, the mayor and a few other key community leaders. Ask these leaders about the major in your
issues in our community, the needs of (children, youth, seniors), and where they could use some help.
Demographic Study – From my rich consulting experience, I have learned demographics can help a church get the big picture and see the potential. Here are some questions to guide your demographic study:
- How many people live in the church area?
- Is the population in the church area growing or declining? At what rate?
- What is the ethnic diversity in the church area? Is there an ethnic group that warrants a new Sunday School, Bible study class or new work?
- How much lifestyle diversity is in the church area?
- What are the major generational groups in the area? Are the generational groups growing or declining?
- How traditional are the family structures (two-parent families, blended families, single parent, single)?
- How educated are the adults? Does this reveal ministry concerns or opportunities?
- What is the blend of home owners, renters, and vacant properties? What are the ratios for housing structures (single family home, apartments, group quarters, etc.)? What does this tell you about your community?
- How does the average household income and individual income affected ministry in your area?
- What can be learned from information about occupations (professional, service industry, blue collar, academic)? What percent of women are in the work force?
Answering these questions can quickly surface people and places with potential for new Bible studies or Sunday School opportunities.
Tom Belew has served as Small Groups and Childhood Specialist for the California Southern Baptist Convention since 2002. He previously served as Minister of Education in churches in Arizona and California.