As has often been repeated, "A journey begins with the first step." We have been talking about the journey of becoming missionally vital in our communities, of having a Kingdom impact in Jesus' name. It is a destination toward which many church leaders want to move. But how? Where do we begin? In this post, I want to suggest seven key next steps you might consider.
1. Create a task force to learn about your community:
People are involved in their own lives and just don't notice the pain in people's lives around them. We assume that we know who is in our community and what their needs are. If fact, most of us just know people like us. So, gather a small group of people to investigate the demographics in your area -- and then to share their findings with the congregation. The Conference has a contract with MissionInsight (www.missioninsite.com). If you have not explored your demographics before with them, email me and I will send you information on how to start. In addition, determine who key leaders in your community are (police chief, city council persons, school principal, public health clinic doctor, etc.) and interview them. Keep it simple: what do you like about our community? What needs do you see among people? Who is doing good work addressing these already? What do you think our congregation might do to help? What common themes are you hearing from these interviews?
2. Preach & teach about Jesus' call to join him in ministry to others:
Many evangelical congregations have overlooked Jesus' call to join him in compassionate service to others. Consider reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Sterns. We cannot read the Gospels and say we follow Jesus and not be involved in making a difference in people's lives. And yet, that is where many congregations are!
3. Preach & teach about vocation:
Many people in the pew assume that ministry is something the preacher and staff do while they are the recipients. Scripture tells a very different story. Every baptized person is called to ministry that invests the gifts and opportunities that God provides us in being a blessing to others. Consider reading Reclaiming the "V" Word, Renewing Life at Its Vocational Core, by Dave Daubet and Tana Kjos (www.arenewalenterprise.com). How can your congregation help people explore their vocation of being a blessing to others?
4. Sponsor mission trips:
I know of one previous country-club First Church that over a period of years has been transformed by involving over a tenth of their worshipers every year in mission trips. Consequently, the congregation has now begun to be involved locally to bless persons and have a Kingdom impact in their community. Mission trips may have more impact on those going than on those visted. Consider reading When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert. Such processing prepares people to minister with greater awareness and sensitivity in the future.
5. Provide missional on-ramps:
Missional on-ramps are prepackaged experiences of ministry that require a minimal investment of time and emotional risk. You show up and do something for others. All the preparation work has been done for you. On-ramps let people put their toes in the water of an initial missional experience. As with mission trips, it is critical to give people the opportunity to process what they are doing, hope to accomplish and their experience doing it.
6. Have on-going local missions:
Rather than doing a bunch of different ministries locally, consider doing just one or two so that people can go deep over the years, rather than wide. By focusing on a couple of ministries only, the congregation has a chance to build relationships, to gain in understanding about what might really help and to see the impact evolve over time.
7. Celebrate regularly what people are doing in service to others:
Whatever gets your congregation's spotlight will grow. So, if you want more people involved in ministry in your community, find ways to shine the spotlight of your congregation's attention on those that are already doing this and on the opportunities for others to join them. Worship is an ideal place to help persons see the difference that "we" are making in our community. Show video clips of members in ministry to others. Let people share their ministry stories in the e-newsletter and on the church’s FaceBook page. People are looking for ways to impact their world positively. By sharing how your congregation is doing this, people are attracted because they want to join you joining Jesus.
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Dr. Jeff Stiggins
The Center for Congregational Excellence