How Holiday Mission Moments Can Spark Deeper Connections

Clothing drive, food pantry, toy driveThink about ways to listen, further partnerships and develop a long-term plan 

During the Christmas season, many churches in our connection host Christmas toy drives, clothes drives, soup kitchens and food pantries to support our neighbors in need. Others are wondering how they can further their work in mission to build authentic and long-lasting relationships with those whom they serve. Here are three ways to help your church rethink Christmas mission work!

1. Use this opportunity to listen deeply to your neighbors.

If you are doing a mission project that interfaces with the neighbors directly, such as a soup kitchen or closet ministry, equip a group of community and congregation members to listen to your neighbors so that you deeply understand their dreams and struggles. A listening team can serve dual purposes: (1) getting to know the neighbors and their stories to build authentic relationships, and (2) discerning where God is working in their dreams and struggles. Some questions that your listening team could ask include:

  • What are the things you appreciate most in your life right now? What are you thankful for?
  • What do you hope to see happen here or in your neighborhood in the future?
  • What makes our neighborhood special to you? What are the things you enjoy most about living here?
  • What are some of the problems or difficulties you've noticed in our community?
  • Have you noticed any instances of God's presence or guidance in your life or in our community?
  • How can we work together as neighbors to make our community a better place for everyone? What are some ways we can help each other out?

2. Seek out ways to further partner with local organizations.

If you are already doing a mission project in partnership with other organizations, or if your mission project does not interface with the neighbors directly, you can ask the following questions to deepen relationships with partnering organizations, identifying ways to build authentic and long-term relationships with your neighbors. Some helpful questions might include:

  • What are some of the challenges your group faces in serving the community? How can we partner with you to address these challenges creatively?
  • How can we leverage this relationship to listen deeply to our neighbors and find ways to address the root causes of problems in the community?
  • How can we position ourselves in collaboration with your group to be accessible and available to our neighbors?

3. Develop a long-term engagement plan for the neighbors.

A long-term engagement plan helps ensure that your efforts are not a one-time event, but rather a sustained commitment to the community's well-being. This helps build deeper relationships, create lasting impact and address the root causes of issues. Further, a long-term engagement plan provides the time and framework to cultivate trust, understand community needs and gain a deeper understanding of the context in which you are working. Communities are dynamic, and their needs evolve over time. A long-term engagement plan allows you to adapt your approach as circumstances change, ensuring that your efforts remain relevant and responsive to the community's evolving priorities. Here are some questions to reflect on:

  • What are some of the follow-up plans and engagement systems you have established as you serve your neighbors?
  • Once you meet them for the first time through your service opportunities, what are some of the ways you seek out to learn from their stories?
  • How are you empowering your congregation members to build relationships that are human-to-human rather than a helper and the helped?
  • How can we leverage the gifts and graces of those we serve so that together we can further this work together?

Christmas mission work is an opportunity to embody the spirit of compassion, love and service that lies at the heart of our faith. By embracing a strengths-based approach, building authentic relationships, empowering community ownership and addressing root causes, we can transform our Christmas mission work into a catalyst for lasting change, creating a more just, equitable and thriving community for all.

Published: Monday, November 27, 2023