My wife and I recently recently relocated from SoCal to NorCal in November of 2013. The reason being that I received a Student Ministries Pastor position at a local church in Sebastopol, California. The move has been great in many ways and yet foreign in one major manner:
We don’t know any non-Christians.
Beginning to work a full-time church position in an entirely new community can be difficult for many reasons. Aside from learning where everything is at, numerous questions arose: How are we going to build any relationships with people outside of the church? How are going to be a light in our community as Jesus calls us to (Matthew 5:13-16)? Are we going to be stuck in a Christian bubble?
We knew that we needed to find a way to get connected to non-Christians.
For us, it involved my wife and I prayerfully making the decision for her to not finish her bachelor’s degree. Instead, she sought a job in the city in order for her to have an opportunity to meet and build friendships with non-Christians. We also are very intentional about going to the same coffee shop (Taylor Maid Farms), the same few restaurants, grocery stores, etc. with the intention of becoming regulars. This provides the opportunity for us to be more than simply customers to the employees but potentially acquaintances and even friends.
Ideas for Connecting with Non-Christians in Your City
Getting involved and connected with non-Christians in your city can be difficult and sometimes seem nearly impossible. Here are a few creative ways to get connected to your city:
- Go to city-wide events and gatherings. City Council meetings, farmers markets and local festivals are great ways to connect with and be a part of what’s going on in your community.
- Coach a little league or high school sports team. Find a sport that you enjoy and coach a local youth team. This is a great way to connect with both the youth and their families in your community.
- Become a regular at your favorite coffee shop, restaurant/s, businesses, gym, etc. By doing this, you are creating an opportunity to connect with the employees and other regulars. Don’t just ask, “What can these employees do for me?” Ask, “What can I do for these employees?”
- Volunteer to tutor or teach musical instruments to students. If you have the mental capacity or musical talent, why not use it to serve students and their families in your community? By sacrificing time and energy to teach them, you have the opportunity to demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus.
- Work in your community. For years, I worked at a Starbucks a few blocks away from our church. During my employment, I was able to build relationships with regulars as well as their friends and families. They also were able to take notice of me when I would: 1) read my bible or a Christian book on my break and 2) be gracious and merciful to my coworkers or even a customer who hadn’t had their cup of coffee yet.
- Serve at your local animal shelter, retirement center, hospital, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food bank, etc. People in your community are already serving in these non-profit organizations. Many of them are non-Christians. This is a great platform to serve alongside non-Christians and share why it is that you choose to sacrifice your time and energy.
Final Thoughts: Quit Avoiding Non-Christians
Jesus didn’t avoid you; don’t avoid them.
If you only go to the Christian church, the Christian school, the Christian sports league, the Christian supermarket, the Christian coffee shop, the Christian restaurant, mechanic, gym, doctor, bookstore, etc, you are separating yourself from your city; this is not the way Jesus called us to live.
You are called to be in the world but not of it (John 17:14-19). This does not mean that we remove ourselves from non-Christian institutions and businesses; this actually means the opposite. We are to live amongst non-Christians in such a way that our lives demonstrate that the values and idols of this world are not our god, but that God is our God.
Do you have other creative ways to get involved in your city? I’d love to hear them! Feel free to comment or email me at email@example.com Please be praying for Erin and I as we continue to seek ways to better be involved and get connected with the non-Christians in our community.