Monthly Archives: July 2010
While it is sad to admit, many churches have really messed up in the outreach department. They fall into the trap of doing the same things over and over, year in and year out. These outreach events become their traditions. Some churches even go so far as to invent holidays to add their events to the calendar. And despite all of this hard work and effort, many outreach events fall short of their desired outcome. Why does this happen, year after year, event after event?
Sometimes the answer is a vision issue that points to a church that is simply off course.
Sometimes it is a church that has gotten into an unhealthy pattern of trying the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.
Sometimes the answer is far less obvious. Sometimes, we simply lack the creativity.
So what are some ways churches can break out of the funk and get creative with their outreach?
- Allow creative people to be a part of the planning process. They can help you out you know.
- Dare I say it? Look around at other successful churches and see what they are doing. Don’t do their event exactly, but understand that there is a reason it’s working as well. Or share your ideas with them and get their input on the idea. Brainstorm if with them, gather some information and improve your chances of having a successful event.
- Spend the money to send your creative people to an outreach conference. Allow them the freedom to run with a few ideas.
- Get specific with your events. Don’t be the church that says, “We’re going to reach everyone, with this one event, and all of Chicago will be Christians by tomorrow.” We all know, that simply doesn’t work. That’s about as effective as a radio station playing everything from polka to rap. People would give up on that station. We must be more specific about who we are trying to reach.
- Design different sized events. Not every event you do in the outreach area has to be for thousands of people. Some events can be designed for mid-sized groups, around 50-100.
- Partner with organizations in your community. There might be an area of town that is reached through the local food pantry and housing authority. Partner with them to help meet needs of people. This is a way of taking the Gospel “out” of the building and to the people. Partner with restaurants, car washes, gas stations or whoever else you can think of, to pull off an event. Partnering with an organization that is already doing some of this work is great, because then the church doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel.
- Don’t assume that outreach has to be an event. Many times we think our outreach is an all or nothing, put all of our eggs in this basket, kind of a thing. It doesn’t have to be that way. Outreach can be done strategically through individuals in the church as well. Don’t underestimate the power of empowering your people to outreach in their own neighborhoods. Block parties, neighborhood movie nights, handing out bottles of water or serving at a community event near their home. All of these can be just as powerful as a big church event designed for the thousands.
- Force yourself to throw away the box you have put yourself in with outreach. Clear the calendar. Try something new. Get crazy. Stop doing the same old thing, just because. (I realize, this one is easier said than done. Been there, done that, have the souvenirs.)
- Come to a solid understanding of what outreach is about. Don’t lose sight of the vision, that outreach is for those who are “out” of the church. If you don’t see outreach as for people outside the church, then you are “in”-reaching and boiled down is just glorified fellowship. There is a time for fellowship, but not when you’re trying to reach people.
- Stop asking the question, “How much will this cost?” That question has killed more great ideas and initiatives than I even care to estimate. That question comes way down the road, after questions like, “Why haven’t we thought of that before? That’s a great idea, but how can we make it reach more people? How can we use this to maximize impact for the hurting in our area? How can we utilize this event to tell the most people about Jesus?” These questions are far better to ask. If all of those questions can be answered and God is giving you a vision for this outreach event, the money is a non-issue. Even if the money isn’t there, God will honor the risk.
These are just a few of the ideas that I thought of.
What am I missing? What would you add to this list?
How has your church gotten creative through outreach?
What did you do?
How did you plan it?
What did you learn from the experience?
Share as many ideas as you would like in the comments below. We can only help each other this way. After all, we’re all playing for the same team.
So, my blog officially made it to 300 comments. woo hoo!
I guess that’s some sort of milestone. I’m not really sure. It has taken over a year to get there, so I guess I shouldn’t really be all that excited. ha ha
Anyway, I just want to thank everyone who takes time to read my blog. Your comments have challenged me and made me push myself spiritually and intellectually. Please, keep your comments and questions coming.
In honor of the 300th comment, I almost posted a clip from my 2nd favorite movie of all time, “300.” However, I’ve decided against it. You’ll have to just live with a picture for now. You can find plenty of clips on YouTube from the movie. For those who don’t mind “the best special effects I’ve ever seen in a movie,” you should rent it. I recommend renting it on Blu-Ray or other HD format for full effect.
Thanks again for gracing my blog. I appreciate all of you.
The tide is an amazingly powerful thing. The waves crash onto the beach and then as it’s going back out, the tide pulls at your legs, twists you around and moves you to where you don’t necessarily want to go. The tide was moving north, up the coast. We told our kids they could play in the water in front of us. They would have a great time. They would splash around, lay down in the water, go underneath it with their noses plugged. It was an all around good time.
From the water they couldn’t sense what was happening. And it seemed that no matter what we would tell them, it never seemed to matter. They would be playing and after about 10 minutes, they would be part of the way up the coast, not in front of us on the beach anymore. The tide was strong enough to carry our kids away. Had they gotten underneath one of the currents, there could have been some interesting moments on the beach. For my kids, it wasn’t a matter of disobedience to not stay in front of us where we could watch them, it was simply a matter of the slow fade. The tide would tug and pull at them and the natural reaction is to go with the flow. And before you know it, they were down the coast, where they weren’t supposed to be.
This was a huge lesson for me. It is so easy to fall into the slow fade trap. Haven’t you experienced it before? You get on top of the spiritual world, you are on a high, things are going great, God is good, no temptation or peer pressure can touch you. You are the on fire Christian out to change the world. But in a slow act, so slow in fact that you don’t notice, somehow that drive begins to wear off.
Or maybe your marriage is at the top of its game. No one can touch you. You and your wife are rolling through life with no problems or regrets. But something happens. Before you know it, you are fighting over who forgot to close the garage door last night. Something just isn’t the same. There was a slow fade.
We have all experienced it, haven’t we? The natural defense for slow fade is connection. Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. Read His words in John 15. For those who separate themselves from Jesus, cannot produce fruit. They will not live full lives. One of the first signs of the slow fade is a lack of spending time connected to Jesus Christ. So you need to ask yourself questions like this; how much time are you spending in God’s Word? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying? Are you connecting daily with the true vine? Or do you think that you’re such a spiritual giant, that you can handle months and months, or even years, disconnected from Jesus Christ?
Another defense for slow fade is focus. Scripture teaches that we are to remained focused on Jesus Christ, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith. We must constantly be in a state of refocusing and repentance. When we remove either of those from our spiritual disciplines list, we will begin to experience the slow fade. We will find ourselves further and further down the coast. We can so easily go from, “God is good and I will die for Him,” to, “Where is God? I thought He loved me? What’s going on?” So, where is your focus? Are you more focused on Jesus or money? Jesus or your kids? Jesus or your vacation? Jesus or your job? Jesus or your house? Jesus or yourself?
Another defense to the slow fade is to simply talk to another person. Scripture teaches us that confession to another person is good for cleansing the soul. When we keep things bottled up inside, we tend to close ourselves off to God and to people. The more sin we hide inside, the easier it is to hide from God because we feel like He won’t want to hear from us. So we begin the slow fade away from God.
So where are you on the spectrum? Are you already up the coast? Are you feeling like you’re on a high? Or are you somewhere in the middle?
What steps do you need to take in your life to prevent the slow fade from happening to you? Who do you need to talk to? How much more time do you need to spend reading God’s Word?
What examples can you think of that I’ve missed?
It’s amazing how much you can learn at a beach. What have you learned from the beach?
One of the days we were at the beach, the waves were extra choppy. Most of the waves were above my head. They weren’t “gnarly pounders” or anything, but they were fantastic for what we were doing. I would make my way out into the waves and dive into them or ride one on an inner tube. The power of the waves and the current of the tide was incredible. I was reminded of how weak I really am when some of the waves tossed me around like a rag doll.
After a brief break, I decided to head back out for more. As I was getting pretty far out I heard a little voice say, “Hey Dad, wait up.” I turned around to see Grant following me out into the water. He has gotten more and more brave throughout the week. I had asked him to stay in the shallow part while I went out and hit some of the bigger waves. He looked at me and said, “No, I’m coming with you. Wherever you go, I’m going.”
I picked him up and we walked out to a place where I was having difficulty touching the ground. The waves pounded in on us and I had to work really hard to keep us both above the water. It was quite the adventure and something I don’t think either of us will forget.
I wonder how often our spiritual journeys play out that way. God leads the way out into the deep waters. The waves are smashing in (the biggest difference between my story and the lesson is that I’m not God and God wouldn’t have had any problem holding me up in the waves, but you get the point) and He is pointing out to where it is the most difficult. He leads us toward risk and into places where our weakness will show.
And sometimes we are sitting on the beach, or relaxing in the shallow. How often do we look at Him and say, “I’m going with you wherever you go. No matter how deep or risky, I’m in.”
What is the deep or risky step of faith that maybe God is leading you toward? You know, it might be something fairly basic. Maybe you are feeling the pull to make church a more important part of your life. This might be a huge step of faith for you. Maybe you have been burned by church and Christians in the past and now you are being pulled toward church again.
Or maybe it’s a little bit bigger. Maybe you have a neighbor who isn’t so neighborly. And maybe God is pulling you toward building a relationship with them or even introducing them to Christ.
What about that homeless person you see on your way to work every day? He has a specific spot on a corner and you see all of his belongings in a shopping cart. Maybe he makes you realize that your 6,000 sq. ft. home, 3 car garage and golf membership, is really a good life. And maybe you are beginning to feel the tug of God to come out into the deep end. Maybe it’s time to stop and try to make that person’s life a little better. How do you do that? I’m not sure, but I would encourage you to follow God’s lead out into the waves.
No matter what God is leading you to do, I would challenge and encourage you to follow Him into the waves. When you get there, He will be strong enough for both of you. Look at the waves, see God’s extended hand inviting you into what could be the greatest adventure of your life and say, “I’m going with You. I’m going wherever you go. I don’t want to stay on the beach anymore, I’m ready for the waves. Bring it on!”
What adventure is God calling you to?
Are you willing to follow Him into the waves?
Comment me and let me know your thoughts.
Lesson 3 coming soon…
It’s almost hard to imagine that anyone could learn anything at a beach. The beach is where you go to shut your mind off and just relax. It’s where you go to take your mind off of work and all the things that bother you. The beach seems to be the place to chill.
However, it seems even sitting on a beach, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and doing pretty much nothing for the last few days, has prompted a lot of thoughts in my mind. My family was given the opportunity to enjoy a beach house that belongs to some of our friends from church. They graciously gave us the key and said, “Stay as long as you like.” So we have been in North Carolina, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean at Carolina Beach. It has been an amazing blessing and one that we are very grateful for.
As we walked along the beach, there were millions of shells all along the sand. Millions all along the length of the beach right at the edge of where the tide would leave them. This of course prompts hundreds of beach-goers to walk along slowly and pick through the shells.
Which ones are “full” shells?
Which ones appear to have the most value?
Which one could I make a necklace out of?
Is that a starfish?
And probably a hundred other questions that are going through their minds as they pick through the carnage of what used to be alive.
All of these little shells used to have something living inside of them. They have now come to the end of their life and they have washed up on a beach. They are picked through and stepped on. Some are considered worth keeping, others are left on the beach to either be buried in the sand or ultimately swept away with the tide.
So when our life on earth is over, how will people view our lives? Will they step on over us or will they stop and admire they way we lived? Not that it is about us, but will we have lived life in a way that brings life to others or brings a smile to the hurting? Will we make our lives count or not?
I know one day I will die, but I don’t want to end up an empty shell, getting walked on at the beach. Okay, that won’t happen, but you get the picture. I want my life to count. I want to help make life better for other people. I want to help people discover a God who loves them unconditionally. I want to see people on spiritual journeys come into a special and new, connection with the Creator of the universe. I don’t want to live an empty life. I want to live a full life that points people toward something much bigger than today.
Stop and picture the beach. What lessons can you learn from the beach?
Lesson 2 coming soon…