If you are a church or an organization do a personal inventory of your infrastructure. What do I mean? Before meeting with community leadership figure out what you have to offer. Here are a few things to consider:
· What can my church / organization give away for free?
o Most church buildings sit empty during the week. Offer your building space up for free to community groups for meetings. This is a great way to build relationships in your community.
· What can we do differently?
o Think of your staff and what is typically required of them during the week. Now think differently! Think beyond the walls of your church and all that must get done before Sunday rolls around again. If you value your community require staff members to serve outside the walls of the church each week. We actually made “community hours” a mandatory part of job descriptions. It is not natural to leave the office when so many things are required of staff. Make it a part of the job and reward work in the community just like you would reward work inside the church. After all Jesus did say in the Great Commission “Go and make disciples…” not “Wait till they come to you…”
· What space don’t you routinely use during the week?
o If your Worship Center is empty during the week allow community groups to rent it for free. You likely have valuable AV equipment that would be helpful for large group meetings. If your Children’s Ministry space is open during the week talk with a local preschool about allowing them to use your space. If you have a Café offer to cater a meeting for a community group for free. If you have a gym or any sports fields offer them rental free to local Special Olympics organizations. Keep thinking!
· Think beyond the interior of your building. Think about your campus too.
o Do you have any empty field space? Build a baseball field, soccer field, volleyball courts, lacrosse field, you name it you can build it! Let’s not forget one of the most famous lines from Field of Dreams… “If you build it they will come.”
Next, ask yourself who are you community leaders?
· Here are a few ideas to run with:
o County Board of Developmental Disabilities, local ARC office, local workshops, adult day programs, public school system special education departments, police stations, mayor’s office, judges, special Olympics, keep adding to the list.
Find out from your community leaders what are the greatest needs in your community?
· Don’t guess
· Be open
· Pray that God would surprise you!
· Don’t overpromise
o Make sure you and other leaders are on the same page. Take time. Pray. Commit for the long haul.
What are a few things that I wish I knew about community partnerships several years ago?
· You have to find time to ask
· Don’t be afraid to ask
o Fears are likely overblown. Many community and even government organizations are in similar situations as you are when it comes to lack of funding. They are likely more open to a partnership than you think.
· If you don’t get a good response, don’t give up. Ask again or ask someone else
· You have to make it a priority like any other priority