Ask These Questions to Discover Your Community Context

The community does not exist primarily for the church but the church for the community.

Gaines S. Dobbins

This quote by Gaines S. Dobbins in “Building Better Churches” underscores the importance of understanding the context of the “place” a church finds itself in. Here is a sampling of some questions church leaders ought to be asking on a regular basis:

  • Has the church a plan for studying and knowing its territory?
  • Has the church a map or maps of its territory and outlying districts?
  • Has the church accurate information as to population statistics such as age, race, and occupation?
  • Is the church reasonably informed as to economic conditions in the community?
  • Has the church ever made a study of community health conditions?
  • Has the church any plan of active cooperation with the schools in the community?
  • Does the church take an active interest in providing or encouraging better cultural advantage?
  • Is the church aware of and making any contribution toward the solution of the problem of delinquency?
  • Has the church any program for the improvement of family life?
  • Is the church building wholesome community consciousness and developing civic pride?
  • Is the church promoting good citizenship?
  • Is the church promoting neighborliness?

Sounds like questions taken from the latest writings on leadership and vision, right?

Wrong – they were written in 1947, near the end of Dobbins’ career as a professor of Christian education. For over 25 years Dr. Dobbins used knowledge like this to train young pastors as they prepared to begin serving in churches across the world.

We would do well today to remember his teachings.


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