The atheist owner of the local pizza restaurant. The Muslim insurance adjuster down the street. The agnostic mayor of your town. The High School soccer coach who grew up Methodist, but isn’t so sure what to believe these days. What if you were their minister?

Churches across the country are rediscovering an age-old approach to local ministry. Historically, many Christian traditions have viewed their presence in a community primarily as ministerial; church leadership see themselves as ministers not only to church members, but also to everyone in the neighborhood.

Typically, we think of a minister as one who engages in pastoral duties: visiting people in hospitals, praying with those in distress, attending celebrations, listening to those who need to talk. Churches functioning in the Parish model do these things for neighbors who might not (at least not yet, anyway) consider themselves Christians or ever darken the door of the church building.

Bob Bixby, a pastor in Fremont, California, approaches ministry in this way. He’s a pastor at Redeemer Church, but he’s a pastor for his entire community. To do this well, he is intentional about knowing the needs of his neighbors, and partnering with those in the community who might be able to do something to meet those needs.