MY Ministry Setting Is Suburban

Your Question:

“How can I best serve in a suburban ministry setting?”

The Issues:

The issues of a suburban church might include isolation, and the results of stereotyping. A suburban church may not connect with other churches or view itself as a “rich” or a “poor” church. Connecting with the surrounding community means welcoming those who come from a different financial demographic, and also connecting with those outside the community.

Scripture Foundation:

“But we urge you, brothers, to excel more and more and to aspire to live quietly, to attend to your own matters, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you. Then you will behave properly toward outsiders, without being dependent on anyone.”   1 Thessalonians 4: 11, 12

Short Answer:

Most churches today exist in a suburban setting.  They tend to “keep to themselves,” and pay attention to the needs of those people who come to their services. This is not a bad thing, but it might be a very limiting perspective. In past years, when more people viewed “going to church” as a normal practice, churches may not have had to consider ministering to people who didn’t come to their services. But, with today’s reduction in the perceived value of “going to church,” churches worldwide are now challenged to go outside their own walls to make connections with the people in their community.  In the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28: 19, 20), Jesus commands us to “go,” rather than “invite.” 


Serving in a suburban ministry setting means doing all you can to be a good steward of your church facility, the finances, the supplies, and providing a safe environment for the people who attend your services. Serving in a suburban ministry also means praying and working hard to contact the people in your community who may not come to your services. 


Suburban churches should also interact with other churches in their community to prevent themselves from being too “inward,” and not being interested in others in the community. If the finances are “tight,” that doesn’t mean that you can’t perform some “outreaches” or “community service” ventures. Being a small ministry doesn’t mean that you can’t make healthy connections with other churches or para-church ministries in your community.


Being a suburban ministry may require more creativity and flexibility.  God will help you!  Here are some ideas for connecting with people who may never “come” to your church, and also building relationships with the other churches or children’s ministries (CM) in your suburban area.


1) Connecting with the people in your community – Today’s children need more encouragement to serve others. Today’s society highlights “taking care of your own needs,” more than it highlights caring for the needs of others. A great way to connect with others in your community is to create service projects in which your CM families can participate. Of course, you must plan for safe experiences, but there are many things your church or CM can do within the community to foster connections between your church families and those people who may never “come” to church. Offering free events for children during the week is always a great way to connect with new families.  Yes, the parents are still bringing the children to the church, but by offering something for free, it is definitely an outreach.  Going “door to door” is not something that is regularly done in today’s protective, isolated world.  But, you may find that doing that safely actually impresses people.   


2) Building relationships with other churches and CMs in your area – Contact the various CM leaders in your area and invite them to join you for lunch or coffee at a local restaurant or coffee shop. The most challenging part of this idea might be to find a location that is big enough for the number of people who may join you. After you find a place, invite the CM leaders to join you by identifying a topic or challenge that you know they all face.  You don’t want to limit conversations to one topic, but highlighting one topic may interest them enough to make plans to join you.  Make sure that you don’t imply that you are “taking charge,” or setting yourself up to be the “leader” of all of the CM efforts in the community.  Highlight the very broad interest to meet together to encourage each other and to seek God’s blessing.  During the meeting, enjoy some great conversations and introductions.  Make sure everyone knows each other (name tags?), and everyone has a chance to share about what God is doing at their church or CM.  After a couple of meetings, you might propose a joint community event that is shared among all the churches or CM teams in the area. If God lets you do this, it will be a wonderful experience that strengthens the unity among the various CM teams in the area.   


Serving in a suburban environment does not usually include significant challenges related to your setting. The challenges may be related to preventing the ministry from being “inbred,” or self-centered. Ask God to help you be aware of what is happening outside your own property lines. His Kingdom is very big! For more help in understanding the setting of the children’s ministry, click on the APPENDIX link below.

Visit other articles in the “Understanding Your Ministry Setting APPENDIX”

Back to the “Understanding Your Ministry Setting” page. 


Support those who serve on your children's ministry team