In order to pastor a community, you need perspective. A very broad perspective. You have to be aware of what is happening in your neighborhood, city, region. What has happened historically? What are the challenges and opportunities that characterize your community? And most importantly, what do you see God doing?
We have long held the philosophy that, as long as things line up with vision, we walk through whatever doors open before us. God is capable of guiding, correcting, and certainly protecting us. This gives us endless opportunities for learning.
A while back we were approached with an opportunity. ND Consulting, the local developer, was behind in what are called “make-readies”. A “make-ready” refers to doing whatever maintenance is necessary to a vacated apartment, etc. before a new tenant moves in. They wanted to know if we wanted the work. We were already partnering with them on several projects, so they were aware of the nature of our ministry and that we had the necessary skill sets.
We started by touring one of their developments that was a overhauled elementary school, now turned into apartments. Most of their developments are low-income, rent-controlled apartments.
Like our other businesses, we started by doing all the work ourselves. We had to break down bidding, maintenance, painting, and cleaning. Soon, though, we were able to integrate employees. We discovered that this was a perfect working environment for our ministry. It is relatively safe. No big machines or spinning blades. It has a broad skill set, with a fairly low bar initially. This means someone with few skills can come in and be trained on a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities. This can lead to several different career paths. Also, it is a contained environment, which means supervision is easy and efficient.
There are complications though. The work is dependent on the ebb and flow of vacancies. Emergency jobs pop up. Bidding can be time consuming, and difficult when it comes to work we've never done.
This business has led to other great opportunities. We started masonry and roofing soon afterwards. The same developer later asked us to provide lawn maintenance. Again, this has proven to be a good match for us. There is a good range of skill sets (pushing a mower, maintaining equipment, managing crews and supplies). It is local. It puts eyes all over the neighborhood. It keeps the place looking nice. We even took on a few vacant lots along the main thoroughfare to keep the place looking nice.
All of these skills cross over easily into the rest of our ministry. Employees end up trained to work in property rehab. Our own lawns get maintained. We have tools and skills to do community clean-ups, and to beautify the neighborhood.
Property maintenance and lawn care were two opportunities that came to us, and are creative ways to solve problems. They have given us new ways to create employment and pastor our community.