Who still takes sugar in their coffee these days? Nobody, right? Of all the many people that we serve coffee to in our home, I can think of exactly two people who still take sugar. The trouble is, I never remember that when I’m actually serving them coffee.
For years, they’ve been quietly and politely receiving slightly unsuitable caffeinated drinks from me. It’s not that I’m being deliberately stingy or subversively trying to preserve their health. It’s just become a habit to give them coffee my way without too much thought about it, and to forget about asking them what they want.
As a church in a new suburban area, we were blessed with Go For It funding for three years to meet the needs that we’d discovered through researching our community. At that time, it was baby boom – lots of people starting families and moving to the area, lots of dads working offshore or out of town and lots of isolated mums needing friendship and connection.
After a gap, it would be tempting to pick up where we left off. Put on more parent and toddler groups. Get into a habit of offering the community what we’ve offered them before. But we realise the need to go back to researching these people we live and minister amongst. To find out again what it is that this community actually wants and needs.
Even Jesus took time to ask the questions instead of assuming the need being expressed in front of Him. In Luke 18:41, a blind man approaches Him, and Jesus asks, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The answer was probably obvious enough. But actually, there was something about Jesus giving the man the dignity and the challenge of daring to ask that brought about a meaningful, reciprocal relationship. Jesus chose to offer not by assuming, remembering or observing – but by listening.
The thing is, communities (and the people living within them) change. Sometimes even coffee drinkers do. ‘It’s two sugars, isn’t it?’ ‘Actually, I don’t take sugar any more!’ It’s always good to ask the question regularly, ‘What do you need?’ because it might not be the same thing it used to be.
Of course Jesus didn’t limit His meeting of people’s needs to the ones they believed they had. Earlier on in Luke 5:17-26, Jesus dealt with a man’s need to be forgiven of his sin before He healed the paralysis He’d been presented with. Our communities need more than a bespoke project or church made to order. They need the things that Jesus wants to show them they need too. But that didn’t mean He neglected to dignify people by listening and responding. Nor can we.
So we’re off to research our community afresh. To ask questions of where there’s need, and where there’s potential. To hear about how things have changed. To listen instead of assuming, remembering or just observing. The only way that I really know I’ve got the coffee right is when I ask the person drinking it what they want, and then faithfully go and make it that way. When was the last time your church or project asked your community, ‘What do you want us to do for you?’
About the Author
Rev Scott McRoberts is minister at Inverness: St. Columba (New Charge Development).
The church is using a Go For It Main Grant to decrease isolation among parents of young children, through their Connections project, which provides Groups to enable parents and young children to increase their social connections and confidence in parenting, and explore Christianity in a meaningful way.
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