4 Principles One Local Small Church Follows For Community Impact

We can all leverage what we have to bless others. Here's how one small church is doing it with limited resources, but significant generosity.

I am the pastor of a small neighborhood church. We currently average about 75 people in our Sunday worship meeting. We don’t have a large budget or wealthy benefactors to fund major projects. We don’t have a huge savings account or endowment.

The Dallas-Ft. Worth area has been called the “Mega Church Capital of the World,” so we have some of the largest churches in the United States within a 30-minute drive from our church. And . . . our church is making a tremendous impact on our community, schools, and city. We have learned to look for opportunities utilizing a few simple principles. (See the end of the article for specific ministries we participate in.)

1. See A Need, Fill A Need

There is a line from the animated movie, Robots, that says, “See a need, fill a need.” This has become a guiding principle in our church for how to identify ministry opportunities. We look for areas of pain or need and ask how we can meet the need, bring healing, or alleviate pain.

For instance, at the elementary school we asked the principal what needs they had. She told us that other churches and organizations do school supply drives at the beginning of the school year, but have no contact with the school the remainder of the year, so they often run out of supplies by mid-year. We saw this as an opportunity. So, when school supplies are on sale, we have a school supply drive. Then we store the supplies until the mid-year mark and deliver them to the school to supplement the depleted supplies.

At the city level, we contact our city officials and representatives and attend city council meetings to find out needs that we can possibly meet with our resources, talents, and availability. This allowed us to discover city programs that allow us to connect with and serve our community. Then we promote these programs in our church for our people to volunteer.

2. Show The Gospel, Then Share The Gospel

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care” is a phrase you are likely familiar with. It is true for the church as well. Many times, churches and Christians are guilty of forcibly sharing the Gospel in ways incongruent with the gospel. At our church, we refer to this as someone being a “jerk for Jesus.” Somewhere, along the way, we have confused being bold for Christ with being brash for the church.

At Wildwood we have adopted the mentality of “show the gospel before you share the gospel.” Our interactions with our neighbors, especially those we disagree with, must be living examples of the gospel. The only thing that should be offensive about the gospel is the gospel itself, not in our actions, words, or attitudes towards unbelievers.

We adjusted the way we serve our community. Service brings us in contact with our community and allow us to show God’s love. That love breaks down barriers between unchurched people and Christ. Many people need a good experience with a Christian before they will want a relationship with Christ.

3. Partner Rather Than Replicate

There are many churches and organizations who are doing great work in our communities. We partner with people who are already doing the work. We find where God is working and join him in that work. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel or have our name in lights if we are truly motivated for God’s glory and kingdom growth.

This principle has guided our many partnerships with our city, local food banks, schools, and other churches, allowing us to do most of our ministry for free. Partnering is a great way to maximize the use of resources as well as building relationships with other Christians in your community. It also gets your focus away from the promotion of your church and onto God’s kingdom.

4. The Church Building Is A Tool, Not A Trophy

Part of the way we partner with our community is by leveraging our own resources for our community’s benefit. Most church buildings are only used one or two days a week for a total of less than ten hours. With the amount of money, time, and maintenance that buildings demand, we need to make sure we have a proper perspective and stewardship about them.

The church is the people not the building, but many churches spend a significant amount of time treating the building like a trophy. In addition to taking care of it and cleaning it, we sometimes admire it.

However, the church building is more of a tool than a trophy. A tool is designed for a job. Tools don’t often get the same attention as trophies, but they do things trophies can’t do. They serve!

We have shifted our mentality about our building by thinking of it as a God-given tool to help us serve our community. We open our doors to our community to use the building as often as possible. We host crime watch groups, para-church ministries, local business gatherings, and other church ministries.

For example, on Mondays, we host our local Homeschool Co-op. Between kids and parents, we have about 150 people who spend the day doing classes, training, and planning. We don’t charge them rent or building usage fees. So, by utilizing our building, we are in weekly contact with a group of people double the size of our weekly attendance.

Specific Ministries At Wildwood

God has opened many doors for our church to minister outside the walls of the building.

Currently, our church hosts after-school Bible clubs at our local elementary and middle schools. These are done in partnership with other organizations, Kids Beach Club (kidsbeachclub.org) and Men and Ladies of Honor (honorchangeseverything.com). We have adopted these schools to help meet the needs of the students, families, and teachers. We regularly collect supplies and funds to supplement programs and needs at the school. We provide extra gifts and blessings for the teachers, staff, and admin. Each year we adopt specific families to bless with Thanksgiving meals and, at Christmas, we provide a full Christmas for at least one family. Many times, the recipients of these gifts are families we have met through school.

We also have an active presence and ministry to our high school. I am a Character Coach through Fellowship of Christian Athletes (fca.org). I speak weekly with the football and girls’ volleyball programs. I speak occasionally with other sports. I have a recognized presence on the campus. Many of the students refer to me as the Football Team Pastor. I travel with the Varsity Football Team and am on the sidelines with them at every football game.

We also partner with a local food bank, Inspired Vision Compassion Center (ivcompassion.org), to provide nutritional support for student athletes. Weekly, I deliver food, snacks, and drinks to the fieldhouse and the athletic director distributes it throughout the sports programs in the school. We also occasionally prepare meals for special events for the coaches and students.

My wife is a teacher at the same high school and runs a mentoring program. Through it we invest in specific students. This includes nutritional support, college and career mentoring, and, in some cases, spiritual discipleship.

These ministries in the schools have afforded us a platform of validity with students and their families to the point that when needs arise, they reach out to us first. Administrators, counselors, teachers, and staff often recommend our church to students and families with needs.

In addition to the presence and ministries in our school district, we also actively serve our community through initiatives and programs such as Addressing Mesquite Day and Keep Mesquite Beautiful. The city provides all the funding for these programs, we provide the work hours.

This has allowed us to connect with families in our community we may never have met otherwise. These ministries have built a reputation for our church of being a loving and serving church. This has led to the schools, city, and our neighbors reaching out to us for new opportunities we would have never considered.

The world is asking us to minister to them. There are many of my pastor friends at other, much larger, churches asking how we can afford to do these things and what programs are we using to recruit volunteers. The short answer is that most of these things are completely free for us to do. The possibilities are endless with God’s guiding and innovative perspective.

(Photo by Stewart Black | Flickr)


  • Dr. Rick Nichols

    Dr. Rick Nichols is the Lead Pastor at Wildwood Baptist Church in Mesquite, TX. He is also an Adjunct Professor for Liberty University online, where he teaches several courses related to pastoral counseling. He and his wife, Amy, have two college-aged children.

    Rick firmly believes in God’s desire and ability to work through the local church, especially smaller churches. He seeks to encourage pastors of smaller congregations to shift their focus from quick growth to deep discipleship. When discipleship is the goal, growth is a natural by-product.

    You can follow Rick on Facebook.

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