This is the second in a series of posts about what I’ve learned about multi-ethnic church planting as we near the one-year anniversary of New Community Covenant Church in Bronzeville. Part one can be found here.
Two years ago I knew two people in Bronzeville. As I became more involved with our church planting efforts in the neighborhood, I quickly realized that I needed to meet a lot of people relatively quickly. As a proud introvert, the idea of forced meetings with a bunch of strangers made my stomach turn. I know church planters who are great at that sort of thing; I, on the other hand, would have come off as a really bad salesman. Eventually I found a framework for meeting people and telling them about the vision of our church.
Relational Networks became the phrase I used to describe how I was meeting new people. Maggie and I had lived in Chicago for less than two years when I began reaching out to people in Bronzeville. This was enough to seriously limit who I knew in Bronzeville, but to make it more challenging we were living on the North Side, miles north of our future church’s South Side neighborhood. In other words, as a white guy living on the North Side who’d recently moved from the suburbs, I was going to need some serious help.
Help came rather quietly in the form of conversations over coffee and lunch. As I was introduced to folks who lived or worked in the neighborhood I’d ask for a follow-up meeting. Over these conversations I usually had the chance to share about our church, but the real benefit was learning more about the neighborhood and being introduced to other folks. In a relatively short amount of time I began to see networks of relationships throughout the neighborhood. Interacting with these networks through new relationships allowed for multiple opportunities to invite people to our church and learn about ways our church could be involved in the neighborhood.
The early days of the church planting process were filled with these meetings and they remain a priority one year after beginning weekly services. The idea of relational networks lets me be myself while still actively connecting with new people who haven’t heard about our church. I heard a preacher once say that credibility is what other people say about you. It’s my hope that as our church becomes part of many relational networks our credibility as humble and courageous followers of Jesus will become known in Bronzeville and beyond.