A couple of months ago, I began doing ‘sociographic research’ on the west side of the Lehigh Valley. Demographic research includes numbers and data, sociographic research generally entails talking with people. So I met with the Borough Manager and Police Chief. All I can say is that it far surpassed my expectations. Every pastor ought to speak with township officials every 5 years simply to discern their angle on the needs and changes in the community – not to mention putting community leaders in a position of honor. I was able to show them how thankful I was for their service and to honor their knowledge about the very city that I too feel responsible for (though spiritually and redemptively).
Here’s how it went down. In sum, it turned into an informal counseling (or at the very least, listening) session. Give a police chief 30 minutes to tell you what is on his heart and you will see him bleed his passions about the broken homes and kids on the streets, etc.! It was eye opening. I approached the meeting by promising that it would only be 30 minutes and that I had nothing to sell or even advertise. I simply wanted to tap into the wealth of knowledge of my community leaders and to communicate to them that we desire to be a church(plant) that is a blessing to the community rather than a church that resents the cultural changes in most of our communities. A church can’t fully bless the community if it is limited to its own perspective of what the community really needs. I asked these 5 questions:
First, both the police chief and borough manager felt that they weren’t giving me a good picture of Emmaus because they were sharing primarily its difficulties and needs. They kept interrupting the conversation that “90% of the citizens are incredible.” It almost felt like a counseling session, giving these two guys a chance to unwind about issues they deal with daily. They were greatly appreciative of my interviewing them and treating them as experts who have invested in the community. They were thankful for a church that desires from the beginning to be a source of renewal for the community – a blessing, not an isolated body. They kept bringing the conversation around to the need for churches… whether they feel that way or they just didn’t know how to talk with a pastor, I couldn’t tell. Before I left, I shared with them that we were praying for their streets and their community. We shared excitement about my family moving to N 5th street. An incredible feeling to believe in God’s kingdom renewal of the city/borough these men serve… knowing the gospel is powerful to transform! Incredible to be doing this now, when there is no church yet to even solicit. The two issues they were most passionate about were the need to engage the youth (in a broken family culture) and to enable this old PA-dutch community to deal with the influx of minorities from Allentown, etc. Youth and multiculturalism were the two most pressing issues – are those not issues that the church can engage! Praise God!
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven, pray for Emmaus (or your community). Pray for its community leaders! Do your own sociographic research on the streets and in the marketplace and in the town hall of your community! Is your city your Jerusalem over which you weep and watch and pray and minister? (O, and the need for this mindset is equally great in the BIG urban, small urban, suburban and rural contexts!)