Mission trips are a way for people to help others in times of their greatest need, whether it be physically or spiritually. Those traveling on these trips usually grow in their relationship with God. They can explore new cultures and learn new ideas while serving a different community. Many of these trips are made up of groups comprised of individuals with diverse skill sets, and the length of the trips varies, with some being short-term and others long-term. These trips allow volunteers to make a difference in a community. Have you ever had the opportunity to go on a mission trip?
Mission trips occur not only in distant lands, but it is also possible to participate in missions at home. Just for a moment, consider what the members are doing in the neighborhood where your church is located. Do the people from the community only see you on Sabbath, and maybe on the day you have prayer meeting during the week? What type of interaction do the church members have with their neighbors? Just as those who travel abroad for mission trips grow their relationship with God, explore new cultures, learn new ideas, and serve a different community, those who remain locally can do the same.
Believe it or not, the community is an extension of a church’s congregation. It is the mission field that God has called the church to serve. Some members may never travel abroad to participate in a mission endeavor, but there is a mission field before them that needs their attention. Some individuals from the community may never set foot in a church building, yet we are called to share Jesus with them (Matthew 28:19, 20).
How prepared are we to take care of the local mission field? Are our Sabbath programs and prayer meetings enough to meet the needs of the local field? The truth is that what is happening within the church is no longer enough to attract people who are not already members. Hopefully, we are not sitting in church waiting for people to come to us. We live in a time when we must meet people where they are.
If Jesus was on earth today, what would He do? Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work”—John 4:34 (NKJV). I dare say Jesus would do as He did in times past—feed people, heal people, meet their everyday needs, and fellowship with them. Having said all this, what can church members do to make a difference in the lives of those in the mission field around their church—their community?
Listed are a few ideas of what churches, schools, and other institutions can do to serve their community.
Know the Community Surrounding Your Church
• Review and become familiar with the demographics of your community.
• Take time to walk the neighborhood streets and get to know the area.
• Assess the community needs by checking in with the local organizations from which you can gain that type of information.
• Talk with your neighbors. Ask them about their challenges.
• Get to know the public officials who serve the community. Share with them what the church’s commitment is to the community.
• Meet people who lead agencies that serve the community and learn the best ways to work with them while, at the same time, they are learning about your organization.
• Get involved in local groups that serve the community.
Establish Outwardly-focused Ministries
• Have planned days on which you go out and pray for people in specific areas of your town or city.
• Get your church’s prison ministries team working, not only with those who are incarcerated but with their families as well.
• Make planned visits to local nursing homes.
• If feasible, establish a food pantry or clothing bank, teach ESL classes, or host an after-school tutoring program or cooking classes. Perhaps someone can offer piano lessons or lessons on other instruments.
Participate in Community Events
• Check in your neighborhood to find out about events on which your church can collaborate.
• Participate in fairs and other community events that will allow your church to be a visible part of the community.
• Participate in a community-sponsored health fair, baby shower, book drive, neighborhood clean-up, or race.
Engage Your Personal Network
• Each church member has a network of friends, neighbors, and coworkers. As your church engages in areas that address the needs in your community, share the information with your network and invite them to pass the word along and join you.
The Atlantic Union Conference mission field covers the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, and the islands of Bermuda. The statistical records for the Atlantic Union Conference as of December 31, 2022, indicate the total membership in that region is 130,751, and there are 614 churches and 92 companies. According to the most recent United States Census (2020) and Bermuda Government statistics (2021), the general population in that same region is 35,381,321, which means there is much work to be done in the Atlantic Union community.
Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest”—Matthew 9:37, 38 (NKJV). The list of how churches can be involved in their community is inexhaustible. Building relationships takes time and requires a lot of volunteers. It would be to a church’s advantage to ask for the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit and take the time to plan well how the church will impact the mission field in their area. All we have to do is go and share the Good News. Jesus will do the rest. “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’ ”—Matthew 25:40 (NKJV).
What is your church doing to make a difference in its mission field—the community? What is your role in this vital ministry?
The Mission Field at Home
Listed by state/country is the population in the Atlantic Union territory. What are we doing to make an impact in the area God has called us to serve?