An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

I don’t hear it much anymore, but it still happens.

While doing a church consultation on engaging their community, someone in the room will tell this story: “I remember back in 1968 when this church began. We went door to door in this community, canvassing people, to see who would be interested in a new church like this one. We had great results. People came to church and we grew. So, maybe it’s time to do Tuesday evening visitation again.”

Usually the responses are polite but clear. Translation: “No way!”

In most communities, door-to-door visitation stirs more resentment than relational connection in this post-2000 A.D. world.

At the same time, the impulse behind Tuesday night visitation is healthy and necessary; the desire to connect with and engage people in our communities.

Doing nothing is not the best response to recognizing one mode of engagement is extinct.

Instead, it’s time to embrace the missional impulse within our faith, engaging our communities in every way we possibly can.

Clergy, church staff and entire congregations who are not regularly engaging their communities cannot reasonably expect to be communities of influence, or even relevance.

Those who are actively engaging their communities will discover opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ.

What, then, does visitation look like in 2016 and beyond?

Engagement is the goal; engaging in helpful, Christ-like, caring ways – looking for opportunities to express God’s love. This is the life-giving impulse behind the outdated cold-calling of last century.

When we recognize and affirm our goal (engagement), we are liberated from believing only certain actions are legitimate (visitation) while discovering many ways to express God’s love.

Rather than supply the “Top 10 Engagement Steps For Your Congregation,” an indigenous approach will be more fruitful.

Engaging one another in dialogue around the three following questions will produce more engagement opportunities than you can actually implement:

  1. In what ways do I naturally engage with my extended family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood and larger community?

These come naturally, resulting in authentic engagement.

  1. Were I just now moving to this community, how would I engage the people around me?

Your answers will be respectful because you want to establish long-term relationships.

  1. Were we just now starting this church, how might we authentically engage the community around us, being an expression of Christ’s love?

Rather than a “come to us” activity, cultivate missional engagement attitudes through this question.

So, perhaps it’s time to engage each other in your next staff meeting, lay leadership team meeting or congregational gathering around engagement, using these three questions.

Perhaps people in your congregation never think this way. If so, what’s that about?

Following this Easter season, let’s allow the life-giving incarnational impulse of Jesus Christ to stir our blood and raise our spirits for being the church dispersed in this world.

Mark Tidsworth is president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates. A version of this article first appeared on Pinnacle’s blog and is used with permission. His writings can also be found on his personal blog.

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