Businesses and churches alike seem to struggle to simultaneously build infrastructure and grow outwardly to be externally focused. Focusing on infrastructure usually interferes with externally-focused efforts in sales and marketing (for businesses) or community outreach (for churches). It is understandable, often even necessary, for a business to shift focus from time to time. But outreach is a primary responsibility of a church. God does not call Christians to “seasons” of outreach ministry but rather to lives dedicated to Him and to reaching others. Without sustained, effective outreach, a church cannot fulfill its purpose and cannot survive.
There are 3 primary reasons to be outward focused:
- Prepare People to Hear the Gospel – The underlying purpose of outreach is not just to meeting needs in the community, it is to build relationships to gain the trust to share the gospel of Christ. The best place to share the love of Christ is to start with felt needs. Because the spiritual, material, physical, financial emotional, intellectual and social needs of people in the community are so diverse, several different types of outreach programs are necessary.
- Church Growth – Church outreach is also means to introduce people in the community to the church by making them aware of God’s love for them. Outreach stimulates church growth by mobilizing members to minister to the un-churched. Outreach is only a starting point for many people on their path to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Churches must pick up where outreach ends, providing the worship, fellowship and discipleship opportunities to those they have reached out to.
- Church Morale – Besides leading people to Christ and drawing people into the church, bringing healing and help to our communities, outreach encourages the church volunteer as well. This is an important part of the process for growing disciples and fostering fellowship among believers. Discipleship involves much more than training and education; it requires practical application. A church goal of reaching out to the community in love and service, with the ultimate purpose of witnessing to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, will absolutely unify a congregation.
1. How do we measure outreach success?
The church simply cannot be effective without a priority placed on outreach ministry. So why does outreach seem, so often, to either not be our focus or, despite our best efforts, not be very effective? Essentially, the challenge becomes finding the time and money necessary for effective community outreach. But I believe, more often than not, the resources are there but the delivery systems are flawed. We’re simply not making the best use of the time (energy and intentions) and money available to the church and its members.
The level of participation of church members in ministry, and the number of souls saved, are ultimate measures of the “fruit” of a church. Ask yourself . . .
- How many have been equipped and mobilized for ministry?
- How any are fulfilling their life mission in the world?
2. How do we empower members/volunteers for effective and efficient outreach?
Today, many churches and ministries are using innovative, effective and inexpensive outreach programs. While big events can be an expensive, like block parties that bring Christian churches in a community together to help those in need, they can also be landmark occasions for both the church and the community. Support groups and classes on topics like marriage, child rearing, career planning, etc. require time but not much money. Meet The Need minimizes the resources or effort traditionally required of the church. Meet The Need can mobilize church members to be ministers in the community directly and in very impactful ways. Making an investment in community outreach is not optional; the only question is how to be most effective and efficient in bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the un-churched in our communities.
3. How do we keep the balance of ministry and outreach needs?
Churches must be cautious as to not have an inverse relationship between an emphasis on building buildings and building disciples. Many churches have ambitious building programs but often seem to lack ambitious discipleship processes and a bold message from the pulpit. Maybe in those cases the attention has shifted so much internally, like the company that is overly focused on building infrastructure, that the church is not maintaining a reasonable “balance” across its purposes, under emphasizing evangelism and outreach ministry. Understanding how to grow without building new buildings is a difficult question, but if you concentrate on building people, God will build the church.