There’s no shortage of church buildings in America. I know this may not be true of every city, but I am surprised when I drive around my community at how many unique gathering places are present for Christians. A lot of resources have been given to construct these physical buildings, but how many of them are relevant to the community around them? In Matthew 4:7, Jesus says, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.” If your church were to answer Jesus’ question today, ‘ how are you different from anyone else?’ what response would be given? I believe the church has an opportunity to be relevant to those around them through relevant sacrificial giving of their time, talent and treasure. Think about it. What “religion” doesn’t encourage giving? All of them have a component of generosity intertwined into their teaching. So, what makes follower of Jesus any different than the religious? I believe the answer is sacrificial giving. Jesus set the ultimate example by giving His life. He gave everything and He calls us to follow His example through a lifestyle of generosity. We see this kind of giving in the early church, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:45) , but is that what we are seeing from the church today? My hunch is that there are some churches living this out but that this is the exception vs. the norm. My personal experience with churches, as well as the staggering statistics that exist today, lead me to this conclusion. In addition, the church’s role within the community has been slowly minimized due to a dependence upon the government as well as secular programs. So, how can a church restore its relevance within a community? How can a church become so relevant that IF it was to close its doors, the community would fight for its presence, or at a minimum, would speak of the incredible love that flowed out of it into the community. Questions to Consider as a Church The Community 1. Who is hurting within the community? 2. Who is lacking within the community? 3. Who is oppressed within the community? 4. What cultural backgrounds exist and what are their needs? 5. Who is doing something already in the community (i.e. community leaders) that we can help? Community Initiatives 1. What current relevant efforts are struggling? 2. What initiatives are missing within the community? 3. What open doors for partnership do we have? If a church were to pray, follow each question to an answer, and engage, I believe it would create relevance. Once a direction is identified, leaders need to encourage and provide opportunities for everyone to be involved through the giving of their time, talent and treasure. It’s important to realize that we cannot always just throw money at a problem or need. Sometimes, our giving can be harmful vs. helpful within the context of caring for the poor and helpless. When we engage with our time, talent and treasure, we can be sure to implement relevant strategies for generosity that REALLY help those in need. Two resources to help in this area are, Giving Wisely? Killing with Kindness or Empowering Lasting Transformation? by Jonathan Martin and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … And Yourself , by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Ideas to be Relevant through Generosity Before sharing these ideas, I want to give a word of caution. These are simply ideas to get your wheels spinning and to encourage your church in this way. Some churches have implemented these ideas and have seen great success but that doesn’t mean it will be right for your church. Any direction should be bathed in prayer and should be customized to the needs of your specific community. Partner with those serving the poor Within every community there is poverty. There are also individuals and organizations serving them. Effective research will bring insight into the most relevant way your church can help. One effective idea I have witnessed is a church that serves as a shelter (or an overflow shelter) for the homeless within their community. They provide warm cover, food, a bed, practical needs and relationship. Each night the homeless are brought in and volunteers from the church prepare and serve food, prepare the bedding and also eat and visit together. Some even stay the night at the church with the homeless for security purposes but also to further strengthen those relationships. Partner with a local school I’ve seen churches intentionally build relationships with the principal and school administrators to learn of their needs. One church I learned of provides hundreds of back packs filled with school supplies for low-income families each year, while another assists with school lunches. An entire church can be involved by giving supplies, filling backpacks and delivering them. Another idea I have seen is a church that took a financial offering each year for the school and presented it to the principle to better serve low-income families. Partner with the surrounding neighborhood There are a variety of ways this can be accomplished, so I recommend attending the local HOA meeting to make an informed decision. A church I had personal experience with launched an annual neighborhood cleanup because the city and county did not provide this service. Hundreds of people lined up to dump their trash for free in dumpsters onsite at the church and many elderly and single moms called the church to pick up things from their home. Everyone was able to be involved in a variety of ways; some distributed flyers, some removed trash, some baked cookies to give out, others handed out literature and built relationships with neighbors and many gave financially. Partner with the city or county The county and city are typically very involved in serving the local community, yet many things do not get accomplished due to budget or staffing shortfalls. This is an opportunity to schedule a meeting with the Mayor or City Administrator to learn how the church can best serve. One church in Utah I know helped paint some 5,000 fire hydrants for the city. Over 500 volunteers were involved! Many opportunities also exist to help low-income families with basic employment skills or to serve the elderly, widows and single moms. Move Forward in Faith A colleague of mine states it best when it comes to giving and how a church can move forward. His advice is to “do something!” We cannot meet every need or solve every problem, but we can become more relevant by doing something . How is your church relevant to its community? Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments! Image by Russell Shively / Shutterstock Related Articles: Who are the most generous givers? Be A Blessing | 10 Creative Ways To Give Radical Living: Loving God More Than Money What’s the Best Way to Help the Poor? 6 reasons for giving more in 2009 10 Compelling Reasons to Give More I’m in Debt. How Much Should I Give? Chris McDaniel is the Chief Business Development Officer for DELTA Ministries International (DELTA) and author of Igniting a Life of Generosity . Chris loves to spend time with this wife, bumping the volleyball with his daughter, playing catch with his son, serving the “least of these”, pizza, snowboarding, running half marathons, and seeing followers of Christ become generous givers. The articles on this site are for entertainment purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Please contact a financial professional for specific advice regarding your situation. Also, many of the CPF articles help us pay the bills by using affiliate relationships with Amazon, Google, eBay and others. Find out more here .