Kevin Harney: “Here are three examples that will bring this idea alive … and inspire you to do the same at your church.”
In his previous article, “6 Ways to Find Fresh Outreach Ideas,” Kevin Harney mentioned the practice of vectoring existing ministries outward in order to reach the community. Here, he elaborates on that idea.
Churches, by nature, are selfish. Because the church is made up of people, and people are fundamentally self-serving, the church ends up expending much of its time, money and energy on those who are already part of the family of God.
I am not seeking to be critical or mean-spirited—I am just reporting what I see and experience everywhere I travel and talk with church people. As a matter of fact, when I say this to church groups, and I do on a regular basis, they never push back! They realize that it is true.
Now, here is the good news: since most churches are very concerned about taking care of themselves, they have developed a lot of good ministries to serve those who are part of their particular congregation. Even small churches often have plenty going on in order to care for, serve, minister to, educate and inspire their own constituents.
Some years ago, I began thinking about the amazing things that could happen if local churches would vector their time, creativity, resources and ministries out into the community. I call this the “two-degree rule.” The idea is that we would take the effective and plentiful things we do for ourselves and simply direct these same things out into our community.
Here are three examples that will bring this idea alive … and inspire you to do the same at your church.
1. Meals for the Unchurched
A medium-sized Reformed church was asking the question, “What do we do well (for ourselves) that we can offer to our community?” One person said, “Our church is 104 years old and I am pretty sure we have had a ‘meals ministry’ for about 104 years.” For over a century this church brought meals for five days in a row to anyone who had a surgery, new baby or family crisis. To be more specific, they offered these meals to anyone … in their church!
As they talked about vectoring out into their community a couple of degrees, they decided to offer this same service to anyone in their community who had just had a baby, surgery or crisis as long as they were not part of a church family. This 104-year-old, inward-focused ministry became a powerful new outreach ministry and they did not have to add staff, budget or a new program! They just offered what they were already doing for themselves to their community.
2. At a Crossroads
A large Wesleyan church had a dynamic ministry called Crossroads. Once a month, those who were between jobs, looking for a change in career direction, or at any kind of a vocational crossroads would meet to talk, network, pray for each other, offer support and learn biblical lessons to help them through this challenging season of life. As you might guess, for all the years the Crossroads ministry existed, the church had only invited Christians from their congregation to attend.
When they heard the challenge to vector out a couple of degrees into their community and offer their existing ministries to those who are not yet followers of Jesus, they took it seriously. The members of the Crossroads group went to a local job fair and handed out invitations to anyone who was interested. In a matter of a couple of months, about half the people coming to this ministry were unchurched. And, they loved it. Friendships were built, connections were made and gospel relationships were born.
3. Expanding the Definition of “Community”
An elderly pastor of a small Lutheran Church heard the challenge to vector church ministries out into the community and he was deeply convicted. He walked up to me after hearing me teach about the two-degree rule and said, “Brother, I have to tell you something. Our church has a monthly community dinner. It is a great dinner. We have amazing food and incredible desserts. There is just one problem with our community dinners.” At this point, you don’t have to be a prophet to predict what he was about to say. He looked at me with deep sadness in his eyes as said, “We have never invited anyone from our community to our ‘community’ dinner.”
It seems the word “community” meant people in their own church family—the community of faith. Then, with passion and intensity, the pastor looked at me and said, “This is going to change. From now on we will never hold another community dinner without inviting people from our community to join our church members for this dinner.” Another new outreach ministry was born!
You get the picture. Many churches spend a lot of time and money developing new outreach programs and initiatives. There is nothing wrong with this, but I would suggest beginning by looking at all you already do for your church members and ask how you might vector these ministries out a couple of degrees into your community.
If you promote more widely, plan with your community in mind, and pray for outreach impact, you will be amazed at how you can amplify the message of Jesus through your church and into your community by simply turning out two degrees.
Kevin Harney is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California, the founder and visionary leader of Organic Outreach Ministries International, and the author of the Organic Outreachseries and many other books, studies and articles. For more information: KevinGHarney.com