In 34 years of marriage, my wife and I have just, in recent months, begun to get a handle on syncing our calendars. Back in the day, there used to generally be one flip chart type calendar placed somewhere strategically in our house where, ideally, we would each write out the important rhythms of our lives. Combined with the random sports and extra curricular calendars that our kids would accumulate, this space would be our low tech communication headquarters. The great equalizer though was that we would need to check it occasionally before making another commitment. Missing that important step could easily result in a near disastrous collapse. We were desperately aware that if we wanted to fully engage in the life of our family, the calendar was key. Great in theory, tough in practice.
The paper is gone now, replaced by google calendar on our phones and screen shots of our grandkids schedules. I consider myself fairly technically adept, and yet the reality of virtually syncing our calendars eluded us for a long time. One obstacle after another seemed to hinder our efforts as we were never really fully grasping that the calendar function was not intuitive, that we had to actually continue to input the information that we wanted to coordinate. It is only now that I can report that we are reasonably and fairly consistently accurate. We seem to have achieved the elusive calendar harmony.
In my conversations with, and observations of, churches seeking to become influential in their neighborhoods, I am amazed at how often the calendar is overlooked. To be fair, nearly all have a calendar that they follow. It is just that the calendar is most likely their own … with all of their church centric celebrations or, if they are really ambitious, those dates where they invite their community to come to their celebrations, their building, their agenda. Look on their websites or their social media posts and you will find, almost exclusively, their own events promoted. Rare is it that I find a church that even has an awareness of where you might find information on what is important and happening in the life of the surrounding neighborhood. Rarer still is the church who might actually dare to publish such information. I know of some who will even intentionally plan events that compete with the neighborhood calendar. How much more could you possibly demonstrate that you do not care for the community, or at least what the community cares about. After all, if all of “our” people went to these neighborhood events, who would come to ours? It is the most obvious and yet the most overlooked and under utilized resource that the church has.
Eugene Petersons translation of John 1 is deeply profound and instructional to the church. When the Word, meaning Jesus, took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood, he really did move into the neighborhood. That fact can be attested to throughout the Gospels as Jesus was nearly always where the people were … at their festivals, at their celebrations, at their weddings. Surely the Son of God had more important business than hanging around a neighborhood festival. Apparently their calendar was his calendar. Good news to them was also good news to him and another opportunity to be present … which just happens to be the first step in influencing another. Here’s a tough filter to run your indispensable programs through … If Jesus was in your neighborhood and you were holding an event in direct conflict with a neighborhood festival, parade, concert … which would he most likely be found at? That’s where you, where we, should be also.
I am not saying that we toss out our beloved church calendar any more than I would have advocated tossing our own parental calendars in the wake of our kids busy lives. Consider syncing them though and influencing the people in our churches to sync them. Good news to a neighborhood is festivals, its volunteering, its is sporting events, and kids plays and community meetings … well ok that one is a stretch. I can tell you by overwhelming evidence that good news in your neighborhood would be people showing up to their (and your) stuff … showing up to planning … showing up to promote … showing up to volunteer… just showing up.
Here are some filters to rate your own efforts at syncing the rhythms of your church with the rhythms of the neighborhood:
- Do you know where to go to find local events? (Websites, neighborhood blogs, bulletin boards)
- Do you know the “center” of your neighborhoods universe? (community center, park, civic organization)
- Are there community events listed on your church calendar? What about your social media posts?
- Are you competing with neighborhood events?
- Would you be willing to adjust the timing of your sacred event (apart from your worship gatherings) to “sync” with the neighborhood?