Too often, well intended church members and leaders engage in community outreach operating on their own assumptions about the community in which they are located or want to serve. The truth is that we often know little, if anything, about “the community” we are in and/or want to serve. Our assumptions are too often part and parcel of our own cultural biases and uninformed opinions about people who we perceive as “needy” and in need of our help. Unfortunately, the kind of help that churches often provide is anything but (Read When Helping Hurts or Toxic Charity for more on this topic)
One of the first things we should do before we either begin or even to evaluate any type of community ministry is to educate ourselves about the community. “Community Study Guide” developed by Heidi Unruh of Baylor Univeristy is a user-friendly, practical manual that guides church leaders through the basics of conducting a community assessment for ministry. If you are in a position of ministry leadership at your church or engaged in some form of diaconal or community ministry, I strongly encourage you to review and consider using this resource. You can view and download by clicking on Community Study: A Guide to Understanding Your Church’s Context for Ministry.