Quirinius who?Luke tells the story of the birth of Jesus by locating it in human history, in time and space, when Caesar Augustus was emperor and while Quirinius was governor of Syria (6 - 4 BCE). The God who has created everything that is and who transcends all limits has entered into human history, come among us redemptively , as Jesus born in Bethlehem. In the world, God’s activity occurs in a context, in a particular place and at a particular point in time; therefore, efforts to renew our congregational life, or efforts to serve others in the name of our Lord, must take the place and time in which we live seriously. The context exercise was designed to do that by looking at Augusta, the place of our ministry.
The People in Your 30904 Neighborhood
Good Shepherd is located in the 30904 zip code of Augusta and draws members from 10 zip codes. Making an intentional difference in the lives of others, or making life easier for others involves knowing something about the people you wish to serve. Fortunately today, there are a number of resources that provide detailed demographic information about the people living in a particular area.
We use information provided by the Percept Group who have been providing ministry area profiles for over 20 years. For the purpose of this exercise we confined ourselves to reviewing data obtained only from the 30904 zip code, though clearly, a complete ministry plan would require studying the information for the other nine zip codes where we have members. Through the generosity of our diocese we have easy access to this information. If you would like to see the Percept data for the 30904 zip code, it is available by calling the parish office.
What Did We Learn?
About 190 participants were asked to list any new information or surprises from the data that were different from what they already knew about our neighborhood. Some of the observations were: the population is decreasing, the poverty level is higher than the national average, the average age is younger than expected, there is a higher percentage of single mothers and non-traditional families and a high percentage of church goers attend for recreational purposes.
From this information each table was asked to identify five issues that Good Shepherd might address on behalf of the community. Some of the suggestions included: literacy programs, single parent support and education, mentoring programs, home repairs and life skill training.
Effective ministry and outreach requires knowing the needs of people and their life circumstance. Decisions about ministry plans should be data driven and led by the Holy Spirit.
Every Sunday we are sent out to serve in the name of the risen Lord and to share his love by loving others. There are significant numbers of people in our own neighborhood, even at our very doorstep, who need a helping hand and to hear good news.
It is all too easy to ignore their situation (Luke 16:19-31) but surely a parish named in honor of the Good Shepherd must be willing to follow the Good Shepherd’s own example and actively seek out those who struggle with the many manifestations of lostness (Luke 15:1-7).