The local movement is cause to celebrate. We’re all looking around our neighborhoods for ways to connect meaningfully with one another. Businesses, too, are looking for ways to give back to their local communities. As churches, rather than shying away from business, let’s partner and participate in the good work our local businesses are doing.
In my book, Funding Ministry with Five Loaves and Two Fishes, I give many examples of the type of connections and work that can emerge from strong church-business partnerships. The following are some general suggestions for becoming more enmeshed in your neighborhood, and for encouraging local businesses to get to know your church.
Patronize and establish relationships with local businesses: Consistently supporting local businesses—pizza restaurants or coffee shops on the block—can build relationships. It’s good for the local community. It builds goodwill for the church within the community. It is a potential form of disciple-making, even if all you’re doing is choosing to support a local business every time you meet with someone outside the church or order in for an event. Additionally, getting to know your business neighbors will put you in touch with the pulse of the community. You may find out about local needs. Businesses hoping to give back to their communities may come to you first for input about how they might do that.
Offer a business directory: Again, the most powerful outcome here is connection. By providing local businesses the chance to be represented in a business directory, you are offering them access to your church attendees and potential clients. Your church attendees have the ability to patronize local businesses. Goodwill can be built. Business owners and workers may end up attending the church and even investing time, finances, or skills in the church. They will also be more likely to connect others to the church if and when the need arises. Additionally, a business directory could, at least, pay for its own paper and printing through the sale of larger ads by businesses interested in increasing their presence. Directories can be put together and printed by someone at your church, or
Look for mutually beneficial opportunities: When a strong level of mutual understanding has been established between the church and a local business, and when the two share common values, a partnership can multiply God’s work in our communities.
What are some examples you have seen of church and local business coming together to benefit the community?