Want to engage your church community with God’s work of justice? Jasmine Wrangles shares the practical work of Tearfund’s Community Engagement Team as they equip Christians around Australia to lead meaningful collective action and do justice together.
I first arrived at my church just over three years ago now. I was new to Sydney and looking for somewhere to call home. A friend invited me along, and before I knew it I was part of the community.
I love my church. They’re not perfect by any means – yet they’re my community. I’m sure many of us love our church communities, while also recognising they’re often messy, imperfect, frustrating, and sometimes even deeply disappointing.
So what keeps us engaged in our local churches? Especially in contexts where seeking justice and serving the poor is misunderstood, not a focus, or (dare I say) left out?
I’ve come to realise we can’t do justice alone. We do justice best together. With that in mind, here are four simple steps you can take to engage your church community, and begin driving the conversation on faith & justice!
It seems like an odd place to begin, right? Yet there is something deeply biblical in the practice of listening. Before Jesus begins his ministry, he first takes time in the wilderness to listen to God. Then, before preaching to the crowds, Jesus makes time for his disciples, listening and building into their relationships. Likewise, if we are to effectively engage our church communities we need to make time to stop and listen to God and to the people we share church life with. Organise coffee with a range of people from across your church. Share your story and ask to hear theirs. What has God placed on their heart when it comes to justice? What skills and gifts do they bring, and what dreams do they have for your community?
Through your intentional listening and conversations you should be starting to get a feel for who is keen to explore how your community can go deeper on justice. Draw a small team together. Jot down a few names and personally invite these people to come together and meet. Begin by getting to know each other as a team, and then choose an issue or campaign to begin learning more about. Maybe you’d like to learn more about climate justice as a group and how it affects those living in poverty? Or maybe you’d like to better understand how our lifestyle choices, like the food we eat and the things we consume, impact others around the world? Meet a couple of times to share what you’ve been learning, and how God’s been moving you.
Currently around Australia Tearfund supporters are working to shift attitudes and perspectives on faith and justice in their local church communities.
As a small team you’re feeling equipped and knowledgeable on the issue or campaign you’ve been learning more about, and now you’re ready to take action! This next step involves some planning. Come together and share your ideas. Take time to pray and discern the best step forward to engage your community on the issue. For some communities, simply praying for the poor around the world is a fantastic first step – while other communities may be ready to go further in responding to issues of poverty and injustice. Some key questions to ask might include; what actions could be most effective in our community? How will these actions help the poor and influence others?
There is beauty, wisdom and a sense of depth, learning and growth that can come through reflection. We suggest making time both personally and within your team to share, pray and reflect. Some questions may include: how have you seen or sensed God at work in and through your action/s and community? What has surprised you? What has challenged you? What could you have done differently? What is your greatest hope as you step forward?