Compassion Centered Community Ministry
Acts 1:8 says, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Certainly, all those areas are important, but a community minister is concerned primarily with Jerusalem.
Prior to the Great Depression all “social services’ were essentially handled by the Church worldwide. Once the system was flooded with need, the government stepped in and in America the Social Security Act and welfare were created. At this point the Church took a step back from its mandates to care for the least and the lost.
A community minister typically works in some type of parachurch ministry or an extension of a church with a goal to be the literal hands and feet of Jesus to the world, share the Gospel, and provide needed services to those in need. From a biblical perspective it is essential that these services be performed from a position of non-toxic charity and from a position of equality with man, not superiority.
The work of the community minister is to be an expert on issues of social need and to be able to merge these services seamlessly with the truth of the scriptures.
Qualifications for a community minister include a personal call to compassion ministry, a passion for evangelism, a desire to serve the lost as His hands and feet, an education in biblical counseling and case management, a deep love for all people, and a passion to know them as they are, regardless of their brokenness and sin. Additionally, this ministry role requires a sincere dependence on a relationship with Christ for all decisions, an ability to interact in mixed circles of community influence, and a willingness to know the depth of local and national issues as well as the church’s role in each. Additionally, this role often requires the positional authority of a recognized representative of the Church, as well as many leadership opportunities.
The work of a community minister cannot be broadly defined due the specification of many different areas of ministry that this position might be working in or influencing in his or her community. Typically, there will be elements of vision casting, leadership, relationship building, administration, discipleship, education, and evangelism.
Considering vision casting, the community minister will be working to develop outreach and programming that help the people in the community receive the services that the ministry is designed to deliver. This should be framed according to our mandate as believers and Gospel centric. Often, individuals in this role will struggle with whether they are a minister first or a social worker first. In my opinion, the Gospel should be the foundation that the services are built upon.
Concerning leadership, the community minister will often be responsible for a team of support staff and/or volunteer staff. This requires a leadership style driven by a discipleship model and framed around the growth of the staff and volunteers mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Often this type of ministry, like many others, can be extraordinarily taxing and stressful, and the wellbeing of the constituents should continuously be examined.
Relationship building is central to this type of role. There is a diverse set of relationships this person will encounter regularly. The first group is the service recipients and the only way to influence their lives is to develop consistent compassionate relationship. Additionally, there will be other community leaders that this position will interact with that do not share the same values and beliefs. There are also supporters, donors, and Church leaders to consider.
Administration skills are required to manage and lead the ministry. While an MBA is not required, the skills gained from such a degree can be helpful. Certainly, an understanding of operations and finance are necessary.
Discipleship is a key element along with evangelism. This extends from the staff and trickles down to the service recipients.
Lastly, educating the churches and public about the needs and solutions to the community problems is a regular task. Speaking at churches and being the “subject matter expert” helps to eliminate the narratives from non-faith-based detractors. Many in the church will look to this person for expertise in helping those they know and care about.
Preparation for a community minister should probably start with volunteering in areas that do this type of ministry as you determine if the Lord is calling you to community ministry. Certainly, a seminary degree is helpful as well as ordination, but other areas of formal education that can be helpful are in the areas of counseling, leadership, social services, psychology, and business education. Drive, organization, and resilience are essential soft skills that will lead to a successful career in this type of ministry. Refining public speaking skills is a must as there are many opportunities to speak about the societal issues that the ministry is addressing. A command of scripture is also necessary as it should be weaved into every discussion to eliminate any doubt why you are engaged in this ministry.
There is a great opportunity for Southern Baptists to broaden the impact into community type ministries across the world. There are so many areas of community concern that are being overrun with toxic federal programming that the Church needs to work to reassert itself as a solution driver to some of these issues. Poverty, prison reentry, homelessness, addiction, hunger, human trafficking, families, and housing are all areas where there are existing ministries that can be broadened and grown for the kingdom.
Some churches are developing positions around community-based programming and there are many stand-alone ministries developed for these types of callings. Some positions might be a “call” from a church while others will be gained by submitting resumes to existing ministries. There are some ministries that are Southern Baptist exclusively and others that are multidenominational.
The skills and qualities required of a community minister can lead to roles as a biblical counselor, executive pastor, or a missionary in a different field or area. Each community ministry will be somewhat different due to the people they are called to serve, and different skill sets can lead to a diverse set of roles. Across the nation there are many Southern Baptist senior Pastors that also serve as community ministry leaders, and have churches connected to their community centered ministry.