While I may not really know what I'm doing with this church planting/launching thing, one of the areas that I feel I'm making good progress on is being involved in the community here. Community involvement can sometimes be an achilles heel of church leaders; we can spend all of our time doing church things with church people that our calendars have no room for community events or people. Suddenly, a year can go by and we realize that we don't really have ANY unchurched friends.
I don't want that to happen to me, so when I moved to Neepawa, I was very intentional with finding out where I could be involved in the community here. Now, I did have to battle the voices in my head about what a pastor "should" be doing. Who they "should" be visiting and the unspoken expectations that people have on a pastor.
A now retired pastor who attends our church told me that the best thing he did when we pastored a rural church was to go to the local greasy spoon coffee shop at 6am to hang out and chat with the farmers.
I love this idea but I can't do it. I know nothing about farming. Nor do I have much interest in it and I can only feign it for so long before I get caught. I also don't feel like my time should be spent with farmers at 6am in McDonalds.
I have to find my own "farmers."
Before our move to Neepawa, I spent time trying to figure out what kind of things were happening at in the town. I watched the local cable access TV channel, read the local news papers on the web and tried to find something that could be my "farmers."
It came in the form of a Filipino Basketball League. Neepawa has a boom of immigration from the Philippines and I learned that basketball is to Filipinos what hockey is to Canadians. So in this town of 3600 people, they had a 20 team basketball league!
I'm not great at basketball, but I did play it in high school (although that was more than half my life ago!) and I have officiated it for the past 4 years. So I began to scrape the rust off of my basketball skills in preparation of maybe having the chance to play in the Filipino league.
We put a team together from Portage la Prairie, made up of 5 people from our church, and entered it into the league. This weekend we conclude the season with the final championship game between our Portage team and a really good Filipino team.
It also happened that the local Junior "A" MJHL team, the Neepawa Natives were in need of a chaplain to start their chapel program. Through the hard work and connections with Hockey Ministries International, I was accepted to be the team Chaplain for the end of 2014-15 season. I look forward to the opportunity to be the chaplain for 2015-16 season and having a full year with these 16-20 year old guys!
My "farmers" look different than what can sometimes come to mind when we think of the people in small towns. I feel led to focus heavily on the basketball and hockey communities. Through these two groups, I can be sure to have a good idea of what is happening in my town and make genuine friends in the community.
I am a pastor in rural Manitoba that is passionate about the church, leadership, coffee and bicycles.