At Crossway LifeCare our vision is to help people in tough places flourish. We have four wonderful services that work together to provide vital support to local people: counselling, financial mentoring, community mentoring (COACH) and domestic violence recovery. Since many of our participants also struggle with isolation and loneliness, and the benefits of social inclusion are so well documented, there is a strong impulse among us that to fulfill our vision of flourishing, it is important to integrate opportunities for our LifeCare participants to form community with each other.
Our services require appropriate professional boundaries, and so it has been a challenge to allow more relaxed and open community contexts to sit side by side. How do we do that? I want to share three insights that are helping us move forward in this and integrate our services with vital opportunities for connecting into community.
Crossway LifeCare Pastoral Role
In 2019 we created a new ‘Community & Engagement Team Leader’ role to prioritise and strategically invest in shaping our LifeCare community. We have found that new leadership with a focus on building community has helped this to become a priority, rather than a side project. This new position also brought focus to the core team of volunteers supporting the community work. This has freed up staff involved in our professional services who were finding it difficult to manage boundaries while participating in community activities.
Focus on Building Missional Communities
We are moving away from running big events for LifeCare’s community. They can be exciting and popular but usually bring little transformation to the community and tend to follow a welfare mentality. Our approach instead is focusing on growing smaller ‘missional communities’. At Crossway a missional community is defined as a group gathering around a shared passion, which has spiritual parents, a predictable pattern and a missional purpose. Shared passions may be hobbies and interests or life situations like families with small children or shared issues like food insecurity. At every turn in such gatherings, we are taking opportunities for participants to contribute, to serve each other and also to share casting of vision, planning and leading. We work against a culture where there are ‘haves’ who give and ‘have nots’ who receive. We believe there is a better way where the key focus is empowerment. We aim not to set anyone up to fail, but to encourage contributions and work alongside to encourage active involvement.
Pursue the Common Good in your Neighbourhoods
Another key aspect of our Community & Engagement Team Leader role is to actively pursue relationships and partnerships beyond our church in local community. Building relationships with schools, businesses, community organisations and other local churches opens up insight to what God is already doing locally as we listen for His Spirit’s leading. Secular organisations, while not knowingly pursuing building God’s Kingdom in a Christian sense, often share many values towards the common good. There are opportunities for meaningful collaborative ministry here. This also provides LifeCare participants with avenues to contribute more broadly in their neighbourhoods. Such collaborations, when done well, empower and benefit those serving and those being served, and all the while they work towards the common good.
I encourage you to consider how the three insights above could transform your organisation to further enrich your clients’ and participants’ lives through community engagement.
Community & Engagement Team Leader, Crossway LifeCare