Bob Cowman, lead pastor of 300-attendee Columbus Road Baptist Church in Quincy, Ill., shares eight steps his church took to start a team for impact.
Part of creating an outreach team is getting the right people on it and then structuring the team for impact. Columbus Road Baptist Church usually has about eight to 10 people on the team, though we never limit it.
Find a point person. It’s crucial. For Columbus Road, that happened when a group of 70 people agreed to bring on a new pastor from Ohio who was passionate about reaching out.
Look for people with a passion to see people meet Jesus. I’ve found them in every church where I’ve ministered. They’re key to the team’s success. They will continually drive you back to the ultimate purpose of outreach.
Seek out people involved in the community. Business leaders usually know the culture and what’s happening locally. Other possibilities would be educators, medical professionals, government employees and social workers. Enlisting a broad range of people with regular exposure to the community can be very helpful in learning people’s needs.
Identify energetic people. Event planning, running events and follow-up activities require time and energy. We look for people who, over time, demonstrate a desire and willingness to keep moving forward.
Meet regularly. This is key. Consistency is one of the most obvious indicators that a group is serious and committed to impact. Our team meets monthly.
Brainstorm. In the beginning, we started by identifying needs then listing ideas for activities or events that could impact the community for Christ. At each meeting, we devote time to exchanging ideas for future outreach events. For us, no idea is too off-the-wall.
Determine a process for executing the idea. For example, once we decide on an idea, someone becomes the point person for that event, and several people take responsibility for the different areas. Then, they enlist others to help in their respective areas.
Recruit from the church. The entire team is responsible for recruiting people from the church body to help with the event. Often fringe people or new people in our church (sometimes even those who are still seeking) will want to be involved. We’ve seen people help grill food, pass out candy, man a drink cart, or run sound or lighting. Ultimately, the passion for outreach should permeate every member of your church.
Our outreach team continually encounters and works through challenges too. Here are three obstacles to watch for:
Drawing new people to the team and into service. Like any group, we get comfortable with the way things are, which can make including new people a challenge. We promote the outreach team in many ways—from the pulpit, in our materials and in one-on-one interactions. We consistently encourage team members to include new people in their planning.
Going through the motions. It’s easy to get into a rut and turn the team into a committee that oversees the same events year after year. People (even the most creative minds) can lose objectivity. When the outreach team loses its passion for organizing a particular event, it may be time to pull the plug.
Lack of fresh ideas. We have to work hard to not get into a rut. Just because something worked last year doesn’t mean it will work this year. We’ve learned to mine multiple sources: other churches, community sites, local events, magazines and even just “Let’s try it and see what happens.”
We also look at who God is continuing to draw into our church, identify their gifts, abilities and interests, and then let God work through those gifts. For several years, we hosted an outdoor sportsmen’s show because our congregation had a large group of hunters/fishermen/outdoor types. However, over time the lives of some of those people changed, and God brought new people who had other passions. The outdoor show ended, and new events began—dinners and desserts where our cooks could serve; plays where our artists could use their talents; and family fun days geared to our families with children.
A version of this article originally appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Outreach magazine.