Community Outreach Part 2 - The Mentality
A few months ago I was asked to lead a Leadership Training event on Community Outreach. I led an hour long zoom meeting, and then we opened it up for a Q&A. I’ve broken down the highlights of that leadership training event into three separate blog posts to cover the important pieces. This is part 2 – The Mentality.
As we begin, let’s remember the one sentence answer to the question of Community Outreach. The key to effective community outreach is to understand that all outreach of the church is an opportunity for sanctification before it is a tool of evangelism or church growth. Read that again slowly. To put it another way, outreach and missions in the church is not a service we offer that they should be thanking us for, but it is an opportunity to do what God told us to do, and we should be thanking THEM for the chance to do it.
Last week we covered the Ministry Process, which is our framework for church structure. If we stick to a simple three step process for growing disciples – Worship, Christian Education, Mission/Outreach – then community outreach will result. Today, we are shifting over to getting our mindset correct. I’m going to turn to the work of Nelson Searcy for our mentality. For those who don’t know Nelson Searcy is one of Rick Warren’s proteges who served at Saddleback and then moved to New York to launch his own mega church. He’s written dozens of books, they’re very short, quick, practical books that I highly recommend. Specifically I’ll give you three. First – Maximize, which is his book of giving and financial practices in the church. It’s revolutionary. Second – his book Connect – which is about how to improve volunteer recruitment, and finally Activate – which is his breakdown for small group ministry. He’s got a lot more books, but Maximize, Connect and Activate are all very, very helpful.
The reason I bring those books up is that there is a common theme. Once you understand how this plays out theologically, it actually makes it a lot easier to do practically. I know some of you might be wondering, okay – but when are we going to get to the outreach stuff? But stripping it down to the basics, and getting the mentality right will actually be more useful than a list of projects. Your church, your context is going to need different types of outreach than what I’ve needed in my context – but if we can nail down the theology no matter what your practical application looks like, you’ll be in good shape. Another benefit to getting the mentality right is that it gets rid of our guilt. Let me explain: a lot of us church leaders spend an enormous amount of time apologizing for existing. I’m so sorry, but I need someone to run coffee hour. I’m so sorry, but I need help with this project in the community. I’m so sorry, but service starts at 10. I’m so sorry, but we’re going to take an offering now. We feel guilty for asking people to do the basic things we need to do to run church. But if we remember that the pieces of church life are designed to help a disciple develop – that guilt goes away.
For example: a Christian, to grow more like Jesus and to follow his teachings – a Christian needs to develop a generous heart. That is something we all need to do. So instead of apologizing when you pass the plate, you can tell your people – this is an opportunity for us to develop generosity. I used to be really uncomfortable asking people for money – but when I realized how important it is for the people in my church to have a healthy relationship with money, I got a lot more bold with my teachings on money. We are providing them with an opportunity to give, because it’s good for them – not because of the needs of the church. I don’t mind asking people to do something that will help them grow more like Jesus. (that’s from Searcy’s Maximize book)
Another example: Nelson Searcy in his book Connect, talks about how if serving other people is a way of loving other people, and if mature disciples of Jesus must love and serve other people – then the question changes. The question should not be “what’s the minimum amount of people I need to get something done” – the question should be “how many people can I mobilize and because it is our responsibility to give people an opportunity to serve” Think about this, if every person in your church needed to volunteer for something as a part of their spiritual development, you’d probably run out of volunteer slots. It’s not about the needs of your church, it’s about the needs of your developing disciples. And here’s a fun piece of this. If the framework and the mentality are in place properly, it can shift the morale of your organization. So many of us are frustrated with community outreach because we feel like our projects fail – because we thought the goal was to do something big and splashy – to advertise our church and hopefully get more butts in the pews. But IF the goal is to provide opportunities for disciples to grow, then you can’t have an outreach project that fails. You might think, “my church has five people in it – we can’t do anything” Yes you can! If you provide those five people with a chance to serve – you have succeeded. Even it’s not a flashy headline or a major project. Five people, slapping together PB&J for homeless people, or an after school program or something like that – that IS effective community outreach. Effective because it helped those five people grow more like Jesus. You have to change the score card. I’m going to update a familiar quote: if you shoot for transformation in the community, without discipleship – you’ll fail at both. But if you shoot for effective discipleship, you’ll get transformation of your community thrown in. Next week in part three, now that we have the framework and mentality down we will shift to Community Partnerships. It will be time for a little practical application. Simple, right?