Rev. Kevass Harding talks about getting to know the people in your church’s neighborhood. (photo by Britt Bradley)
By Lisa Diehl, Kansas Area communications director
In 1998, Rev. Kevass Harding didn’t know he was innovating when he and his wife started walking the neighborhood around Dellrose United Methodist Church and knocking on doors.
Harding said what he found out was that people, many who lived only a few doors down from the church, didn’t even know Dellrose was there.
“Dellrose had become unimportant to the community,” Harding said. “No one knew where it was.”
From those initial conversations, and more like them over the past 14 years, Harding and Dellrose have started a number of ministries that have attracted people living around the church.
That’s why Harding was invited to be the second presenter in the Taking It to the Streets series sponsored by the Wichita East District Connectional Ministries Council.
“Taking it to the streets is a spiritual initiative, the practice of an active and genuine love for your community,” Harding said.
That genuine love is what nudged him to start knocking on doors and introducing himself to the people living around Dellrose.
He learned that the average age of people living near Dellrose was 30. They were mostly single mothers with very low incomes. There were lots of children. That knowledge led to the creation of a summer tutoring ministry at the church in 1999.
Taking it to the streets is having a passion for introducing Jesus Christ to people who do not yet know the love he offers.
Taking it to the streets also is letting people know that they are welcomed, respected, wanted and needed, Harding said. Instead of interrogating people when they visit church for the first time, love them.
Harding cited I Corinthians 9:19-23 in which Paul talks about how he has worked to be all things to all people in order to introduce them to the love of God through Jesus Christ. He did whatever he had to do to bring others to faith.
To do that, you have to find out who the people are.
“You can’t be all things to all people if you don’t know the people,” he said.
He offered three steps to getting to know the people who live around your church.
First, walk your community and offer up prayer for the people who live there, for the situations you observe on your walk. Praying for others helps you begin to feel more comfortable with the idea of walking up to the door and knocking on it.
Next, knock on doors and greet the people you find. Introduce yourself and explain who you are.
Then, ask if you can ask them a few questions as part of your community survey. Keep the survey short and simple.
Ask, “Do you know where [the church] is?”
Harding said most church members will be surprised at how many people do not know where your church is.
Next, ask, “Have you ever attended [the church]?” Harding calls these loaded questions because you find out all kinds of things about your church this way.
The next question is, “Why have you or why haven’t you attended?”
In this question, Harding said he learns about what has attracted people to the church and what has kept people from coming.
The final question is, “What would you need from church?”
It’s this question that has led to the creation of new ministries at Dellrose, Harding said. He calls the final question the ministry piece.
“Taking it to the streets is just another way of saying witness ministry or evangelism,” Harding said. “Evangelism belongs to the whole church, not just one team. We’re all responsible for it because that’s what we’re called to do.”
This ministry may be uncomfortable for some because it calls them to get out of the comfort zones and speak to people they’ve never met before.
Harding said prayer walking was a witness, but knocking and greeting is taking the next step and connecting with people because it’s through that connection that relationships are formed and people come to know Jesus Christ.
This is the second of three Taking it to the Streets workshop sessions from the Wichita East District. The first, Prayer Walking, was led by Rev. Rob Schmutz at Park City UMC. This session, Knock and Greet, was led by Rev. Kevass Harding at Dellrose UMC. The third session, Now What?, was led by Rev. Rick Just at Mulvane UMC. All three sessions are available on DVD for $5 each or $10 a set from the Wichita East District Office.