Engaging on Mission in the Suburbs

September 14, 2009

David Fitch has posted a great article for those of you living in the burbs who are looking for creative ways to engage on mission.  Though earlier I posted some of Reggie McNeal’s thoughts on ways to engage on mission through prayer, this article (which you’ll find at his blog called Reclaiming the Mission) is more oriented toward helping people discover places where they can minister to other people.

Feel free to visit Reclaiming the Mission for the whole article, but here are ten places Fitch has found in his area to engage on mission:

1.) The Hospital: (we’ll be two blocks from a hospital). There are few places where people are this poor (in spirit if not other ways), broken and seeking God than in the hospital. Practicing the presence of Christ in the hospitals is a spiritual discipline. It changes me, it ministers Christ. I could develop a regular weekly rhythm where I could spend a few hours a week assisting the chaplain there at the hospital.

2.) Foreclosures: Foreclosures are popping up (there’s a few in the neighborhood). (Neil Cole gave me this one) These are opportunities for Christians to minister to hurting people, bringing peace, helping them readjust and think differently about life.

3.) A Ride with the Police: (there’s police available in every neighborhood) This is a Tony Jones move (read his account of riding with the local police here). I think it’s a great one. Neil Cole once said that the police know where the trouble spots are in the burbs. They know where the hurting people are, the drug addicted domestic abuse is. He suggested to Christians in the burbs to go on a regular ride with the police, find these places, and find ways to hang out and minister.

4.) The Local Bar: The bars are where people go when they are lonely, searching. (there’s one eight blocks from the house). I envision a regular visit the same time every week. Alan and Deb Hirsch say that for the first year of going to the local bar in a regular rhythm, you are getting to know the locals. By the second year you are the locals, and you have earned the right to be heard.

5.) Mom’s Play Groups: (I noticed young children in this neighborhood). All over the suburbs, through the internet, lonely moms get together under the excuse that their kids need to play together (It’s not an excuse). These moms have some of the greatest community. I’ve witnessed this first hand with our young son. When you get there, look for the hurting left out mom, the single mom, maybe the mom with a troubled child, spend time there caring and supporting. Practice the generous serving spirit of Christ. You will be changed, and others will be too through your ministry.

6.) McDonald’s: (there’s a great McDonald’s in this hood). I don’t care where you go, every McDonald’s has a local breakfast club: usually a group of men who sit around, talk sports and joke around before they go to work. If you go the same time everyday, they’ll soon get to know you and you’re life will become an open book to strangers who become friends. Trust me on this; you don’t even have to try on this one.

7.) The Hockey Rink: (there’s an ice rink about two miles away) Ok my son is only three, but I’m thinking hockey (my first love) already. The only way I could afford it is if I coach. This is in my plans in the next few years. Having hung out with hockey kids, their behavior is rude and their dads are even worse (forgive me if this is an over generalization). Being missional might be as simple as not swearing every 5th word, berating someone publicly and treating every one like cr__p. It might be as powerful as setting the direction for a young kid’s life.

8.) The Elderly Center: (A care center for elderly is next to hospital). The most neglected of our society. There are so many elderly who live in retirement homes who need to talk to someone and understand their lives with someone. Find an elderly care facility and visit someone on a regular basis.

9.) The P.A.D.S. Center: PADS stands for Public Access to Deliver Shelter. (I notice a PADS center two blocks from our house!). It is an excellent organization serving the homeless in the suburbs. One of the things they do is train mentors and put them together with homeless. The missional opportunities here are obvious.

10.) Hospitality with your Next door Neighbors: It is so hard to get to know your neighbor in the burbs. They often don’t want to talk. And if you’re a pastor, you’re rarely home. I must make time to be in neighborhood. But then to overcome the distance, some subversive tactics might be in order. Like sell your lawnmower and ask to borrow your neighbors, ask someone to baby-sit your dog. As time goes on, the barriers come down, and you can share some barbeque in the back yard.


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