Welcome to this week’s unSeminary podcast. I’m excited to be talking with Kyle and Justeina Brownlee from Xperience Church in Ohio.
At Xperience Church, going beyond their walls to serve their community isn’t just something they do, it’s who they are. Listen in as Kyle and Justeina share about how to build a culture of meeting the needs of your community both practically and spiritually.
- Look beyond the walls. // Kyle and Justeina worked to plant Xperience Church back in 2012 with the help of the Association of Related Churches. They ended up in the rural community of Defiance, OH and didn’t realize community service would become such a big part of their church’s culture. When a church is just starting to get established and grow, it’s easy to get focused on what’s going on inside the walls and forget about going beyond the walls. At the same time, Kyle says that if we have encountered God’s love—a love that never fails—it’s part of our calling to go share that love with others.
- Focus on actual needs. // Xperience Church didn’t want to wait for people to come to them; they wanted to be intentional about going to people who needed reaching. And that began with identifying needs in their community. Do your homework and be very intentional about going out into the community and asking what are the needs. Reach out to government officials, schools, city parks and other nonprofits. Rather than doing what’s easiest to serve people in your city, do what is really needed. Each community has different needs, environments, and cultural focuses so take a look at the specific needs around you.
- Partner with others. // Most cities have organizations that meet needs within their communities. Check in your area to find what nonprofits already exist and what’s working. Ask how you can join and support them rather than creating something new to compete with them. The church grows more rapidly when we learn to partner and support. Xperience Church reached out to another church in a rougher part of town to support work that they were already doing and it turned into a beautiful partnership where the churches would adopt certain neighborhoods and serve them with meals. Adopt a Block was so successful that the Chief of Police contacted them and told them that crime had actually gone down in the neighborhood.
- Hand-up instead of handout. // Early on Kyle admits that serving the community was also part of marketing their church plant to attract people to it. But as time went on and they engaged in more service opportunities, he realized it didn’t matter. If people got plugged into another church in the area, the Kingdom was winning. Outreaches became about not just giving people a handout, but about giving people a hand-up so they would never go back to that place they were in. Focus on loving people and connecting them to God, even if they don’t start attending your church. Meeting the physical needs in your community will open the door to meeting spiritual needs.
- Start serving. // The first few years after their establishment, Xperience Church would gather their church and volunteers once a year for a big Serve Day to work on multiple projects around the city. This event began to plant the seeds for future opportunities at the church. They learned that some projects went over great while others didn’t bear fruit because they weren’t serving actual needs in the community. Over time the city took notice and expressed needing more from the church and so they started doing outreaches more regularly. This became the foundation for their current serve culture – they taught people within the church how to get outside the walls and also facilitated opportunities.
- Creating a base camp. // The Dream Center in Defiance grew out of these cumulative opportunities. Now the Dream Center is their base camp for addressing needs in the community. Some of the unique issues they address include a workforce program where high school students can come and learn about trades to prepare for a job. They also have a car program where volunteers service cars for single moms and widows. Additionally they have first Saturday serves and tackle different projects each month. To discern what sort of projects you could tackle, ask yourself what resources and skills God has placed in your congregation, and how can those things be paired with the needs of your community.
- Create a culture of community outreach. // If you want your church to move more in this direction, but aren’t sure where to begin, start by praying and asking God what He’s leading you toward. Plant seeds in your congregation by talking about serving in sermon series. Lastly, ask God for open doors and contacts so that you can start reaching out whether it’s to other nonprofits, school systems, or the city.
You can learn more about Xperience Church at www.xchurch.tv.
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