This is series on listening. Relationships are in the image of the triune God, and listening is an essential (first!) component to relationships. It can be said that listening is, in fact, in the image of God, and ought to be a higher priority for the body of Christ that perhaps it currently is. This quick series can help congregations listen to their neighborhoods–in the image of God.
Town Hall Meeting
Is there an issue or initiative that is presently burning locally? Something coming up on a ballot that is controversial? This can be a great opportunity to listen! Have your congregation host a town hall meeting with speakers from both sides. If there is a zoning issue for a new business, have someone from the local chamber of commerce come, along with someone from the environmental preservation group that is in opposition. Make sure the ground rules are clear and friendly. This is not to take sides, but to listen as well as to give your neighbors the opportunity to hear firsthand to both sides of an issue. School bond referendum coming up? Have the principal of a local school or a school board member speak to the benefits, giving equal time to a representative of the homeowners association whose taxes will be raised.
Here’s another chance to get more congregational members involved. Create an “Issue Town Hall” team or committee. Have them get speakers arranged well ahead of time. Then publicize, publicize, publicize. There’s nothing worse than a town hall meeting with no one present. You’ll have a hard time getting anyone to attend a second one, much less speak.
Make sure the moderator or facilitator is a good one. Perhaps there’s someone gifted in that area from your congregation who can do it well. If so, then fine. Just be careful that whoever moderates this event is seen as objective and fair. This person needs to be able to keep things moving and friendly. Depending on how hot the issue is, the moderator may need to be able to keep peace with some agitated attendees too. That’s fine, just make sure everyone’s clear beforehand as to the purpose and the agenda.
One word of caution here. Your congregation’s tax-exempt status rides on the church not endorsing any political candidate or issue. Be very clear that this town hall meeting is for information only, and is not any type of endorsement. Make sure there are articulate representatives on both sides present with equal opportunity to speak and relay information. Sure, there can be questions and answers, but keep things civil. Remember, the goal is to listen, not to convince.