By guest blogger Ronnie Higuera , church planter and pastor. Ronnie is part of a network of leaders planting churches across small towns and rural areas.
Yesterday Bob posted about the way Canyon View Vineyard Church, a large church in Grand Junction, Colorado, is using a multi-site strategy in a small town and rural setting and started a site (which I lead) in the small town of Palisade, Colorado. However, it doesn’t stop there because Canyon View also has new faith communities in two nearby apartment complexes.
For years, we had been doing outreach and serving in various neighborhoods, but it clicked that we weren’t establishing relationships with those we served. We were showing up, completing service projects, giving out food, and then going home. The next time, we did the same thing somewhere else.
Giving out food was good, but it seemed like we were missing relational opportunities. So we looked around the community for some of the worst areas in terms of drug use, crime, and violence, and identified two large apartment complexes. We decided not to begin with rules or a particular strategy, but to just see how we could connect with the people. We knocked on doors on Sunday afternoons and began handing out bags of groceries.
Over time, we established relationships and credibility in the community and the ministry in the apartment complexes has evolved to include weekly teaching, music, and children’s programs. People also started coming out for Christmas and Easter services: probably 350 to 400 people.
We’ve seen a real community emerge from these apartment complexes, as they’re now reaching out to their own neighbors and meeting needs. We now help them do church in their outdoor common area by the playground. In the winter we set up tents for services. We’ve found that an outdoor area creates a sense of safety for people and allows them to come out and get to know each other: in essence, they are the “church without walls.”