In our last post, How to Use Events to Spur Reconnection with our Communities, we discussed how Fall church events could serve a key purpose in helping our congregations turn their eyes outward towards the community. Today, I hope to broaden that perspective out a bit – and go beyond events to looking at how we create an outreach mindset – as individuals and as a corporate body.
One of the biggest challenges, and opportunities, we have as pastors is shepherding our congregations to help them establish a biblically-based, spirit-driven mindset that guides our everyday activities. As a rough, simplified model – the way I tend to see this operating (in a best-case scenario) is that God speaks & establishes His truth in our Spirits, which then informs our mindset & thoughts, which then plays out in our actions.
Similar to the challenges we often face with evangelism (by which I mean sharing the gospel with others), we run into the same issues with outreach. The challenge I’m referring to is shifting our mindset about outreach away from ‘an activity we do’ to ‘actions that flow from who we are.’ To put it a little more specifically – it means moving it from something that we have to purposefully choose to engage in into something that just naturally occurs as part of our regular day-to-day.
Now taking that from an ‘individual’ to a ‘corporate’ application – it’s just as important to establish outreach as a normal part of our church’s activities. As pastors and church leaders, how much focus are we engaging in and supporting activities specifically for the benefit of our communities (meaning outside those already in our congregation)? Are we called to minister to the needs of our church bodies? Absolutely. But aren’t we also commissioned to meet the needs of our broader communities? Jesus demonstrated this so clearly as we see him interacting with all bands of society right where they worked and lived…not in the temple. So we too have to go “outside our box” to meet and minister to the needs of our communities where they are.
In the recently completed American Beliefs Study, we see tremendous opportunities in our neighborhoods for ministry. When asked about major life concerns (e.g., financial concerns, health concerns, social/political tensions), Americans are more concerned now than four years ago about 80% of those areas. Add to that the well-known impact of the last 18 months on mental health, loneliness, fear of the future – and the Church faces a unique opportunity to engage and bring hope to those right around us.
How can pastors help?
First of all, it’s not by being the one to do it all. Pastors are already often expected to do way too much – and the results of that approach are obvious (and counterproductive). But pastors can still lead their congregations in this, even if they’re not involved in every single outreach opportunity. Model this in your own life. Teach about outreach, evangelism, and community engagement in your sermons. Allow those who have and are doing it to share and inspire your people. Make resources available for your church – to staff and the congregation – and demonstrate your commitment to it. Provide training. And perhaps most importantly – empower your staff, volunteers, youth – give them opportunities and freedom to walk out in their giftings and passions to meet the needs of your community.
It is so easy for us and our churches to get internally focused. Changing that default setting takes time, dedication, and effort. In doing so, our purpose is not ‘doing outreach activities’ – but rather letting the truth and purpose of the gospel invade our hearts in such a way that it transforms us and our actions so that reaching out to our neighbors and communities becomes a natural part of our and our church’s everyday lives.
Pastors: How to Use Events to Spur Reconnection with our Communities
Visit Church Growth for more information on Church Outreach.
Donna is ACS Technologies’ Vice President of Client Experience. Her focus is on customer satisfaction and client retention. Donna started as a support representative in 1985 when the company was still called Computer Dimensions.