For evangelical churches, outreach has always been a priority as they live out the Great Commission. From special Christmas offerings for overseas missions to annual summer missions trips, the outreach or missions pastor role has always been outward-focused.
As I work with churches around the country, I’m seeing a shift from the traditional missions and outreach pastor to a serve pastor, community pastor or mobilization pastor who is focused on intentionally serving their community in a practical way.
There are two primary reasons for this change. First, as churches seek to attract and retain millennials, showing how they’re tangibly making a difference in the community connects with this generation’s passion for social change. Second, I’m constantly hearing that assimilation is a challenge for churches. As they seek solutions on how to get Sunday attendees plugged in beyond the worship service, community outreach initiatives and service projects are a great way to provide those folks with a tangible next step they can get excited about.
Here are a few practical examples of how missions and outreach teams are intentionally shifting their focus to serving their church communities in creative ways.
Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennesee, has the Dollar Club, which encourages all church members to leverage their resources to make an impact not only in their community but all over the world. They’ve partnered with organizations like The Salvation Army and Make-A-Wish Foundation as well as gifted funds to specific members of their congregation in need. They do a fantastic job of capturing these powerful stories on film to share with the congregation, which shows church members how their resources are directly making an impact.
Houston’s First Baptist Church takes a week in July to focus their efforts on sharing the love of Jesus with people throughout the greater Houston area. They call it Houston 1:8, and each of their campuses participates in different ways.
Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama, has intentional outreach small groups that focus on serving their city. To wrap up their summer small groups, the church hosts a service day when thousands of church members go into the community to show the love of Christ in tangible ways. The volunteers wear crimson red T-shirts that say “SERVE Day” (except in Auburn where you can bet they proudly wear orange “SERVE Day” T-shirts). Context is everything, and Church of the Highlands understands that as they connect with the communities they serve.
While the outreach and missions pastor is still a present and necessary position on church staffs around the country, the serve pastor is playing a greater and important role for the kingdom.
William Vanderbloemen is the president and CEO of The Vanderbloemen Search Group.