How your church can open its doors to the communityRecently a man read the letter below aloud at a friend of mine’s church. I thought it speaks clearly to the way churches can have an impact on those outside their own walls, and asked to reprint it anonymously here.

“Although neither I nor my family are members of this congregation, still, we have a strong, deeply rewarding relationship with this church. And that comes from the fact that we consider this church part of our community. And this church thinks of us as part of theirs.

Our relationship with the church goes back a couple of years. My wife is a dance teacher and she started holding her dance recitals here a few years ago. When we first started holding them here and told people where the spring recital would be, we got a lot of, “Where?”  “The church next to the 7-11.”  “There’s a church next to the 7-11?”

Well, we don’t get that any more. Every one of the more than 100 families who send their young ballet students to my wife now know that there’s a church here. This church has become part of their lives. More importantly, it’s become part of their community.

A few months ago, I started a company that helps high school students write personal statement essays for their college admission applications. When it came time to choose a venue where we could work with these students and their families, I thought of one place: here.

Once a month, my son and a dozen of his high school friends volunteer at the food bank here. After the food bank, these young people– few of whom have any discernible religious inclination– sit down to some pizza and thoughtful conversation about life and spirituality and how to make sense of this crazy world. Though these young people probably don’t realize it, this church has become part of their community too.

You see a theme working here? These are all evidence that a church can have a profound influence on a lot of people who, for one reason or another, might never choose to pray there. In a world sorely in need of positive messaging and constructive values, that seems like a very valuable service. For the community and the church.

And all that such an institution has to do is open its doors (and perhaps its mind) to the community in which it sits. I want to thank you for allowing me to be part of your community tonight.”