Do you want a more effective ministry to your community? Then read your local newspaper.
I subscribe to four newspapers: The Yazoo Herald, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson), The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. By far the most important is the The Yazoo Herald. Here’s why:
My church worships and serves in a community. Like all churches, my congregation represents only a slice of the community’s population. If my only interest is the people in my congregation, I lose sight of my neighbors, and that hardly squares with the admonition to love my neighbor. The local paper brings me back to the people and institutions that shape my city.
What do I look for in the paper?
Government officials. I have a responsibility to pray for them in the public worship services of the church (1 Tim 2:1-2). What are their names? What are the challenges they face? How can I encourage them – either by letter or an encouraging word?
From time to time, I will disagree with those who lead my city – elected officials, law enforcement officers, social service providers, and educators. Nevertheless, I pray for their success. Why? Because the welfare of my church’s members is bound up in the welfare of my city (see Jeremiah 29:7).
Resources. Who are the caregivers in the community? Are there people in my congregation who need their help?
Achievements. Who in my congregation and circle of relationships is publicly recognized in the newspaper? We rejoice with those who rejoice. In our congregation, newspaper articles about our members are put on a poster board for all to see and congratulate.
Condolences. Read the obituaries. The deceased may not be members, but they may have many friends in your flock. Pray for their families and churches and friends. We grieve with those who grieve.
Networks. Learn about the many organizations that improve the quality of life in your community. They deserve your encouragement. Chances are that members of your congregation may need their services. Be ready to help them make the connections.
Poverty. Every community has poor and marginalized residents who can easily be forgotten. Without thinking, the affluent may live as if they don’t exist. A good newspaper makes readers mindful of all the community, including those who can be easily forgotten.
Events. Parades, patriotic celebrations, memorial days, and school concerts and competitions bring communities – our communities – together, and they are all advertised in the local paper. Attend, and build goodwill and friendships.
Church News. My congregation is one small part of my city’s Christian family. The community calendar directs me to gatherings of other congregations. I love to visit when I am able, and my life is enriched by relationships outside of my immediate church family; it also helps me get to know other pastors in the area.
Advertising. Inasmuch as possible, I want to support local businesses; this is a concrete way to love and support my neighbor.
Another day I’ll share about the benefits of reading other papers. But today my burden is for the local paper, and in my home, none is more important than The Yazoo Herald.