Mapping the Church

eq-map-wld“Where is your church?” I could answer that question by telling you my church is in Arlington Heights, Illinois, in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. But I’d rather answer it by showing you the three large maps on a wall in our church lobby.

One is a world map. Another is a map of Arlington Heights and neighboring suburbs. Between them is a map of the Chicago area. The world map has labels marking Middleburg, South Africa, as well as locations in Russia and Guatemala. Labels on the regional and local maps mark other locations, such as a Habitat for Humanity build, the Chicago Botanical Garden, and the Arlington Heights Library.

These are our “Where We’re Serving” maps. People in our church family serve in each marked location. The locations include our own church ministries in the community, such as a homeless ministry, a thrift store, and ministries we support in the city of Chicago, as well as places we’ve worked on our recent serving day projects. But we’ve also marked our sister church in South Africa; our national and international mission trips; the places our people serve the community through other organizations, such as the Special Olympics and youth athletic leagues; and the places they serve on their own, in community clean-up events, political groups, and caring for cats with special needs.


map-loc-regIt’s a new idea in our church to celebrate our work in ‘secular’ organizations alongside our work in church ministries. For some, it’s also a new idea to identify everyday service to neighbors as service to Jesus. I love the reactions I hear about the maps. “Who knew that we’re doing all that?” “Oh, I do that too.” [For more details on our process, scroll down.]

Where is our church? Our church exists at each location marked on these maps. Our church, the people who worship at 111 W. Olive in Arlington Heights, are living, working and serving out there, locally and internationally. We are the church as we serve in our homes and workplaces. (I wish we could fit all those locations on the maps too!) We’re the church as we worship, learn and serve within our building. And we’re also the church as we serve the community in the name of Christ in a wonderful variety of unique and interesting ways.

Where is your church?


How we went about it:

map-locWe haven’t found a quick and easy way to gather the info in our large church. (Please use the comment option below to let us know what works for you!) First, we simply put up the maps with the little info we had and asked people to tell us what we could add. Later, we distributed this Serving Handout 2013 [see note at end of paragraph] in worship and had it available on our website. We got some responses that way, but the form was really too long to complete in worship. So we then distributed the same form [see note at end of paragraph] with “Gifts for Service,” a one-session Bible study on serving, to our small groups, which we call Life Groups. Another Sunday, we asked worshippers to write where they were serving in the community on the registration card and put it in the offering. We’re excited about the responses we’ve received to date. We’ll continue to encourage sharing as I’m sure there’s more to be discovered. And, by God’s grace, we’ll grow in our serving in the community. [Important note re the Serving Handout: Never gather info on people’s gifts and interests unless you have a good plan in place for using the info. Read “About Time and Talent Surveys.”]

Other things you might want to know if you do something similar:

    • A local printer found, printed and mounted the local and regional maps for us.
    • Labels are small, so we numbered each label and put expanded info on the key posted next to each map. Label colors indicate whether people are serving through our church, through another organization, or on their own.
    • Maintaining and updating the maps is an ongoing ministry.
    • Some types of serving are non-geographical. We put them up in a corner.
    • We include one-time or short term serving events within the past year.
    • We also made a simple PowerPoint presentation for worship listing all the places we’re serving in the community.
    • We created highlights of two ministries on the world map and will be doing the same for some local and regional ministries.


  • map-regWe tried several ways of attaching the labels. Small magnets are not an option; too dangerous for young children. Large plastic magnets broke when they fell. Command TM Strips hold well. But no matter what we use, things get moved or disappear. It’s a busy lobby. Kids love to play. Adults bump into things. We decided it doesn’t bother us.
  • Because kids love to play, we glued magnets to some wooden cars and trucks and put them on the maps. They usually end up in the ocean; no idea why!

Share your ideas and experiences below.

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