How to Connect with Community Leaders in a Small Town

I was recently asked to speak to a group of pastors on how to connect with community leaders in a small town. I thought that might be helpful to share here.

My kids tell me that I always say, "the number one rule is..." They protest that everything cannot be a number one rule. They are wrong.

Here are my three "Number One Rules" for pastors wanting to connect with community leaders.

  1. Show up
The most important thing is to show up. Find the people that you need to meet and show up at their office. Find a club or organization and show up. Then keep showing up.

Most people go to introduce themselves but then never show up again. It takes time for people to trust you. So keep showing up. 

The first thing I did on my first day in this town was to go to Village Hall to meet the Village President. I was a church planter with 17 people and a building that needed to be renovated. And that introduction was worth an entire month of other things I could have done in my office.

I joined the Chamber of Commerce and attended every meeting I could. I still try to attend business grand openings, farmer's markets, parades, etc. Eventually it stopped being so awkward, and people started asking me to do things and involving me in community input. 

It started by showing up.

  1. Serve
Find ways to serve the community.

I have a sales background, and one of the principles I learned is that people can smell a salesman. They know when someone is only out to get something from them. And people hate it.

Pastors and Christians often smell like salesmen. They serve but it is just an attempt to get them to attend something or to give something. Outsiders can smell that in our service and they are repulsed by it.

Instead, serve without asking for anything in return, and then you do it again. See the people in your community as people to help and to love, not as market to be exploited. Then your invitations will carry more weight.
  1. Weep
If you want to connect with community leaders, then you need to love them and the community. They can feel it when you actually love it. So love it enough to weep over it.

I believe that a pastor's (or any person, for that matter) voice should crack when he talks about his community. I believe that people can feel it when the pastor actually loves the community and the people in it. And that is attractive.

Those are my 3 "Number One Rules" for connecting with community leaders.


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