Reaching the urban community
YPSILANTI, MI – A Sunday morning service in the African American community looks different in 2017 than it did thirty years ago. Years ago the church was the bedrock in the community, but times have changed, and thoughts about church and God are not as allegiant. There are challenges that may have contributed to this change such as the need to work, competing childrens’ extracurricular activities, the relevancy of the church, and the apathy that has bubbled up in the society.
Director of Ministries at Reach Church in Ypsilanti, Ebony Robinson asks the questions “So how do we reach a community that may not be as “excited” about God and religion as their forefathers? How do we reach a community where the concern is about social injustices not which worship song is being sung? How do we reach a community who may have felt like God has forgotten them? And how do we do that despite the numerous challenges that may be prevalent?”
Robinson says, “At Reach Church we do not believe we have all of the answers – by no means – but we do believe that when a person is personally “reached” we are attempting to make a difference. If we can get over these hurdles separating us, we believe a person can experience the love of Christ.
Reach Church has an Outreach System that serves the purpose of drawing people to church and inviting them into a relationship with Christ. While Reach does a number of things, two are having a particular impact. First, church leaders engage the congregation to participate in this effort by implementing the Reach One campaign. This campaign challenges and encourages every member to invite and/or share their faith at least once per week, with the use of invite cards and other tools. Robinson adds, “Most people are going to share their “faith about something” but it may not be their faith of Our Heavenly Father. I have witnessed the power of an established relationship with the Father when it is leveraged. I have seen college students bring their suitemates, mothers bring their adult children, and managers bring their team members from the workplace. It only takes one person to inspire another person to action and it has the likelihood to transform a community. Yes, one person can influence those around them to do something different – in this case draw them to church so they can meet Christ. We give the congregation the tools and the confidence to share their faith on a weekly basis to Reach One.”
Another impactful opportunity is through events at church. Sometimes the community may not try something if they feel like there may be a chance they will be singled out. So holding an event gives that person a chance to be a part of the crowd. Being one guest versus many guests is not as intimidating for a person. At Reach they focus on events that will reach the immediate community; college students, and families that live around the church. For example, they held their first Fall-O-Ween (Fall Harvest) around Halloween. To promote this family-fun day they canvassed the community and used social media. Families came to the event who would have never come to any church. They had fun and felt the love of Christ through our volunteers’ cordial spirit and willingness to serve. The next Sunday the service included more guests than normal because they saw the significance of the church.
Robinson says, “When I see God grow a member in their faith, a person in our community walk in the church for the first time or in a long time, I see a community transforming.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ebony Robinson is Director of Ministries for Reach Church, Ypsilanti, MI.