We’re at one of the most divisive times in our nation’s history, and the tension is being felt right here at home. We’ve seen protests in our communities, our social media feeds are packed full of angry messages from people on every side of issues, and even family gatherings become battlegrounds about everything from COVID-19 to November’s elections.

While pastors and other church leaders may be hesitant to step up right now, their involvement is needed more than ever before. We may not be able to expect churches to heal all the wounds in our communities, but they can touch the hearts of people, leading to meaningful changes.

It can be all too tempting to shift our focus inward at times like these. When the outside world becomes scary and seems to be out of control, we might retreat to the comparative safety of our congregation. But that’s not what God expects of us. In Matthew 25, Jesus explains the importance of reaching out to those who are most in need. As Christians, we have a responsibility to share with all of those around us, and when we support those in need through our churches, we demonstrated how God’s love works.

Pastors and other church leaders can encourage their congregations to touch the heart of the community many ways, from individual acts to highly visible events. For example, during this time of economic strain, churches can become a channel for much-needed support. Whether that involves providing meals to community members who find it difficult to feed their households, bringing food and water to people who are homeless, or volunteering at nearby shelters, these activities provide support as well as a reminder of what God expects.

When there are stressful times in the community, such as protests, churches can offer gestures of peace and goodwill, such as passing out water to the participants. Congregations can set an example for others through activities such as neighborhood clean-ups. They can bring youth groups and bible study groups to help senior citizens and other residents with activities such as raking leaves. The intent isn’t to raise donations or evangelize, but to create a habit of serving others. Churches can also tap into the skills and talents of members, making their expertise available to non-members who need help for things such as home or vehicle repairs.

The opportunities to touch the community’s heart are endless, simply requiring some thought, a bit of creativity, and a congregation eager to share God’s grace with their neighbors or even with complete strangers. Small steps can have large impacts and provide significant healing when we all need that. So what can your church do and what is your church doing? Share with us some of the creative ways your congregation has made a difference. We’re all in this together.