The Value of Outreach
Every church has some kind of outreach vision or strategy, whether it is known or unknown. It might be “come and see” or “go and be” or “us four and no more.” But there is set of values that define every ministries’ approach toward fulfilling the great commission as commanded by Jesus. Every church has a strategy that works for them. Here is our current outreach philosophy.
What is Outreach?
First of all, we must create a working definition of outreach. Here is how we are currently defining outreach. Outreach is:
“genuine demonstrations (acts, events or attitudes) of kindness that display the love of Christ and may create an opportunity to share the gospel.”
What are the implications of this definition?
It is genuine. This implies that we (individually/collectively) have the most sincere motives for doing outreach. We are not trying to “win converts” but simply express kindness.
It is demonstrative and visible. It communicates Christ’s love. Grace is treating people better than we deserve. Our actions/attitudes should cause people to say, “Wow that was nice. Why did she do that?”
It may (but does not need to) create an opportunity to share the gospel eventually. Outreach and evangelizing are not the same thing. Outreach is showing kindness and evangelism is sharing Jesus. Outreach may lead, to evangelism, but it does necessitate it.
What are the principles on which our outreach strategy is based?
Outreach is a value and an attitude more than an event. We can all do outreach. It amazes me how many churches put so much effort into a feeding ministry that requires so much time, energy and financial resources when only a handful of people attend. Instead do this. Go to Starbucks tomorrow morning. Buy a cup of coffee for yourself. But also buy the coffee for the next person in line next. Better yet, take a cup of coffee to work and give to an unsuspecting co-worker. No strings attached. You have just done an outreach for three people that took 30 seconds and costs the church nothing to do.
We never “bait and switch.” This simply means that if you advertise a “Free Movie and Popcorn” then the event is “Free Movie and Popcorn” not “Free Movie, Popcorn, and an Unadvertised Gospel Presentation.” Don’t misunderstand me. I am not ashamed of the gospel. However, I am very uncomfortable when I invite people to one thing, and it turns out to be something else. It is about integrity. If you want to share the gospel at an event, then have the integrity to advertise that you will be doing that. Most people don’t mind. But no one enjoys coming to an event and feeling they have to listen to any kind of presentation that they were not expecting.
On Sunday morning, people are expecting prayers, preaching, and some music. They expect to hear a message about how Jesus can change someone’s life. They expect it and we try to make sure that we don’t disappoint.
Outreach must be fun…or we must find a way to make it fun. We have two types of outreaches at Hope. The first are events that are naturally fun like our Winter Wonderland Christmas party, pancake breakfast, soccer camps, and youth retreats. The second are events that normally would not be considered fun, but become fun when you are serving with people you genuinely enjoy. This might include serving people by making sandwiches, hanging drywall or delivering care items. I have found that the most routine of chores can be a blast when we are doing it for the right reason with the right purpose.
We remember that we put our members reputation on the line every time they invite someone. We know that when our members invite their co-workers or un-believing friends, they have are going to face them again soon. We do everything thing to make sure that the experience is excellent and that one did the inviting is excited to talk about the experience and not awkward.
Often the best outreach we can give our current community is the chance to “give back” to others. People want their lives to matter. Our church is located in a community where many (not all) people have status, stuff and comforts. What many of them don’t have is an opportunity to make a genuine difference in someone’s life. We give our community opportunities to give to other communities (in Dayton and throughout the world) so they can know their lives count.
We don’t reinvent the wheel. We create strategic partnerships with credible, missional ministries. There are so many other organizations that are doing great things, but are understaffed or underfunded. We probably don’t need another feeding ministry in Dayton. What we need is for our families to get involved in the feeding ministries that have been faithful and effective for years. If you want to be in God’s will, find out where He is currently moving and get involved.
If it is worth doing, it is worth “marketing” if it is not worth “marketing” it is not worth doing. We must never expect uninvited guests. Jesus said to let your good work be seen by men. If you are not excited about inviting people, don’t expect other people to be excited as well. Invite. Get it on your website. Invite. Print cards and hand out. Invite. Put it on your Facebook. Invite. Invite. Invite.
The gospel fuels all we do, even if the gospel will not be presented. We trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. If God is going to save someone, He is going to do it in His timing, and not ours. This is incredibly liberating. This means that we can just love someone unconditionally. Without expecting anything in return. And we trust, that God will open a door when they are ready.
Know and be who you are and avoid who you are not. God has put certain people in a certain location to meet the needs of certain other people. Near us is a church that has the facility and leadership to do amazing sports ministry, another ministry has the culture to do arts camp for kids, another offers opportunity for senior citizens gather throughout the week and another has a thriving young adult ministry. Each of these ministries has figured out who they are and whom they can serve best. You cannot reach who you are not. It is ok to not to do everything. But it is not ok to do nothing.
Outreach is about showing God’s love, not building your church. People want to know that they are cared about by authentic people. Outreach is not a marketing gimmick to grow your church. It is not about being nice so that people will come to our church. It is simply about being nice. One local church will go do acts of kindness to communities that are far enough away that the recipients will never come to the church. The outreach pastor said they do that to check their heart. “I want to remind myself that we are doing this for those who would receive and not to grow our church.
These are our core values of outreach. What are your ideas or thoughts? Please post them in the comment section.