I’m looking for ways to get my people more “outside minded.” What are other pastors doing that inspire outreach and evangelism among their members? What programs are effective?
Pastor Rich Huston – Arvada, CO
For our church the turning point was when I realized that just having good services each week wasn’t the goal, but ministry to our community was. We had done the typical programs to encourage inviting friends and even door to door campaigns but had limited success. So we changed strategy and began to target the needs of our community and see if we could start making a difference.
The biggest work was getting the mindset of our church members from inside-the-church thinking to outside-the-church thinking. I began preaching about the higher purpose of the church to reach our community and stayed with it. I began saying things from the pulpit like we are not just called to pastor ourselves but to pastor our community. I told our congregation I wanted our church to make a difference and that people should know us by our good works. We began to learn that generosity was to become the door to new evangelism for us. We started by a bus and shuttle ministry to bring all ages of people to church services and special children’s outreach events. We had a food bank for church attendees but took it a step further by feeding the homeless and providing community hot meals for families on our bus routes. Then we began a county-wide food distribution program.
Our student ministry became much more ministry-focused and led the way in community projects. We took church out to the sidewalks, senior centers and prisons, community fairs and anything else that was outside our walls. We found that staffing these ministries depended on good leaders in place that had passion and vision for their respective ministry. It has been over 10 years now since we began the outreach emphasis and now I can say our church culture has changed completely to a community outreach way of life. We are well known in our community and have been recognized by our county and city for our food distribution programs. We are known for our outreaches, and as a result our candle is burning brightly, it is a lot of work and has plenty of problems but for us it is worth it all.
Pastor Matt Beemer – Manchester, England
One thing that we’ve done twice per year for the past several years is a ‘Breakout Sunday’… Normally a Sunday or two before Easter, and Christmas we devote an entire Service to hitting the streets.
In preparation we break our area down into neighborhoods that can easily be covered in an hour by a team of 5-10 people.
We create gift packs that have invites to our special services and something fun for children – chocolates and assortments of sweets, etc. And a tract. Then wrapped nicely with a bow, etc. making it look as much like a gift as possible. The tract is on the inside and the invite is handed separately.
We meet for service as normal and sing two or three songs, pray, receive our normal tithes and offerings, and give 10 minutes of instructions and then divide everyone into teams. All this takes about 45 minutes.
The children aged 5-up go as well… teaching the children how to reach out!
Each team goes out for about 45 minutes to an hour and then everyone normally comes back for a fellowship meal and many times they bring people with them back to church.
There are quick reports/testimonies given throughout the meal to encourage everyone.
The best thing about this is that since it’s a normal Sunday service you get a lot of people who would never consider coming to an outreach.
We’ve even had visitors join us and because they liked it so much they made our church their home. Others are uncomfortable with it and we allow some to stay back and watch the children, set up for the fellowship meal and others pray for the teams as they go out. But it is strongly encouraged that everyone go out at least one time in the year. Normally those who stay back wish they would have gone once they hear all the great testimonies.
Dr. Dan Beller – Tulsa, OK
There are many people who would feel uncomfortable to attend a church service. Our “Christian culture” may be a shocking contrast to their life style. A good solution may be to go outside our church building and design a worship service for them where they live. An example would be to get acquainted with the people in an apartment complex by having a Saturday morning barbeque and feed them. It may surprise us to know that there are people in the USA who are hungry. A leaflet could be handed out inviting them to the apartment club house for some “special music” and singing on Sunday afternoon. A skilled person can bring a Bible message but not in the traditional preaching mode. More food could even be served before the “worship service.” Don’t expect orthodoxy like you would in regular church.
Another idea is for the church to have a place on the church property to give out food and clothing to the needy. This could be done on Sat. morning and be a great outreach to the outsider.
Pastor Jeff Jones – Kalamazoo, MI
It seems like we, as leaders of the church, should model being outreach-minded. So the first question is: “How do we personally feel about inviting a lost person to our church?” Would they feel welcomed, would they understand our church culture, and would they understand our music and our message? There was a time where I was trying to answer questions people weren’t asking and I wondered why people weren’t coming to our church in droves.
Then we came to the conclusion that we could design our services to reach people and create a “creative and relevant” environment where people could connect with God in a genuine way without watering down the Word. You know what? It’s worked, and we’re all inviting folks to our services every week. I don’t know about you but I’m not looking for another “program.” I just want our work, week-in and week-out, to be effective, and our main work is our weekend services.
Pastor Mike Cameneti – Canton, OH
We have used outreach weekends; this is simply where we do more of a salvation weekend where everyone brings an unsaved person. But recently most effective for us is having all of our areas in the church do at least one or two outreaches a year. Each group is able to be creative, like going to Starbucks and buying coffee for people and sharing the gospel with them, or buying gas for people at a gas station and using the opportunity to share Christ.
Pastor Rob Wynne – Linden, AL
I believe that “by example” is the best motivator. It is hard to get someone to do something that they know you don’t do yourself. I have been with members at lunch and they have seen me witness to the waitress/waiter. I speak about witnessing as a lifestyle. I am seeing results from my people. We also know that 81% of people that get to church come because of the influence of a family member, a friend or a coworker. We are starting cell groups that will meet at homes and possibly at church at non church times, where members can invite people to orient them into the church.
Pastor Dave Williams – Lansing, MI
You’ve heard the saying, “Everything flows from leadership.” It’s my personal conviction that if a leader is outside-minded, so will the people be. Concerning programs, I’ve found programs are almost always ineffective. What is effective is genuine ministry that is born of the Spirit. Jesus said, “That which is born of the Spirit is Spirit and that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” If the pastor is involved in activities with people outside of the membership, the people will likely follow.
Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
During 25 years of pastoring I have tried everything there is to get people more outside minded. The best thing I have found that has been the most effective for us is teaching the people to live a lifestyle of evangelism. Lifestyle evangelism should be the goal for all Christians. When we have designed programs to hit the streets or go door to door we had little response. People did it out of obligation or guilt but they were really uncomfortable doing such. After their service was rendered they were relieved that they were off the hook, so to speak, until the next time. Lifestyle evangelism teaches the people to be evangelistic conscious all the time. It is not intimidating or uncomfortable for anyone to share their faith. Whether it’s in the work place the super market or school the people are in their comfort zone and when trained are very free to share their faith. This method has worked for our church better than anything we have tried.
Pastor John Brady – McAllen, TX
Jesus gave us the command to reach the world. Advertisers tell us the greatest way to reach people is word of mouth, all other types of advertising pales in comparison. It was our desire to have our people actively witnessing and inviting people to church. We did not want it to be a few people that caught the vision, but the majority of people, causing momentum and excitement in our church. Here are three things that have helped us gain this momentum.
- Make sure you have a quality service that will attract new people. I am not talking about watering down anything, but doing things with excellence. I don’t believe excellence always has to be expensive. Make sure people are well taken care of when they come to your church. Make sure that your worship is the best you can put out. Make sure that you, the Pastor, spend the time in prayer and study to put the Word forth in a practical and understandable manner. Be led by the Spirit.
- We decided to do servant evangelism. It is amazing how this has caught on in our church and how many people have come to Christ! Much of the world does not view the church in a positive, giving manner. The church usually is a “taker!” But I believe we can open hearts by letting the love of God shine through acts of service. Matt 5:16—“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV). We give away cokes on busy corners with a little connect card that says “This is our way to show you God’s love.” We feed the firemen, we do gas buy-downs. The gas buy-down is when we arrange with a convenient store to pay 30 cents on the gallon for an hour. The store likes it because they get more business and we love it, because they will allow us to serve their customers, wash windows, and give them a connect card. We also help the poor with all kinds of things. It has been amazing how it has opened doors for us to meet with professional people in our community and even work side by side with them. This is a great way to let our light shine.
- We also have classes called “Contagious Christianity.” We use the DVD series from Lee Strobel. This is a 6-week class. We have a facilitator lead group discussion. This class teaches people that they can make a difference sharing their faith. It helps them find their style of witnessing in a practical way; and even gives them practice sessions for them to gain confidence in a comfortable environment.
Pastor Tim Kutz – Bartlesville, OK
After pastoring over 17 years and seeing pastors and their churches in many states and many nations I have come to the conclusion that I don’t know much. But I’m in the same boat as most others. What we need to do is learn from each other; hence this forum.
Pastors everywhere have this same question. I believe that the answer begins with focus. As a pastor, we must be sold on our focus, sell our focus to our staff and then sell it to the people. This may take an extended period of time, but that time is necessary because you need everyone with you. When people buy into your focus, you are on your way to experiencing growth.
If you are a person that considers yourself a pastor with a strong teaching gift, and you understand that the heart of a pastor is to first and foremost feed the sheep, then you may get frustrated because people who “need reaching” are not interested in your teaching gift or your pastor’s heart. The great challenge for us is to reach people who aren’t serious about their faith and who really don’t care about Jesus. We have to understand the heart of God to reach them, communicate that to our people, and then focus on that priority for as long as you pastor.
There are two views of how to do church:
First View: INSIDE MINDED—Build a solid core of mature believers who have a heart to reach people.
Second View: OUTSIDE MINDED—Attract people to your church that need Jesus and help them become disciples.
Most pastors think that many people don’t come to church enough to grow properly, so they have to have a meaty message for Sunday morning. Their teaching gift is strong and they hear Jesus telling them to “feed the sheep” and so they prepare a nice steak for their people to eat on Sunday morning. Most people who aren’t serious about their faith and who really don’t care about Jesus visit then and they choke on that steak and never come back.
I believe that the way to attract people to your church is to prepare services that will minister to them where they are at. We do that for children and for youth, but not for anyone any older. We expect adults that visit our church to automatically accept what we believe and say and wonder why more aren’t as excited as we are to have the privilege to sit under the word of God.
This is a paradigm shift for most pastors and churches. You have to decide what the culture or view of your church is going to be and you have to focus on it. If your culture or view is to build a solid core of mature believers then that is your focus; reaching people is not your focus.
But if you can see that reaching people comes first, and intentionalize that as the culture of your church, then people will focus on reaching out. In the process of all of that, you provide a place and time for all new converts and all current church members to grow in God.
May I suggest the following books from Group Publishing to help stir your thinking about this?
Simply Strategic Growth
Simply Strategic Stuff
Simply Strategic Volunteers
Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
Being more outside minded is the great challenge of the church today. So much teaching and emphasis has been on self and personal blessing. We had to change the culture of our church. I use the pulpit to teach and cast the vision for outreach. I taught a series on “Living for Eternity” and another called, “Outflow.” If the church is going to be more outside minded, it must come from the heart of the pastor. I had to step out and faith and lead the process.
I bought buses to pick teens up for youth group, and challenged people to start a bus ministry. Our youth group has grown from about 40 to over 120. By faith I announced that we were starting a food ministry. Our food pantry now serves over 1000 people per month. Dozens serve in this ministry. We have many opportunities to pray with the clients. This summer we will conduct vacation Bible schools out in the local parks. At the end of the Bible school we have a free cookout for the kids and their parents. We have a team of about 25 people that conduct a Sunday morning church service in the state prison in our town. We have several small groups that meet at various times during the week. They minister to a variety of interests. Several include people outside of the church.
We created a new staff position, which reflects our commitment to outreach. Our Outreach Pastor leads volunteers in various outreaches. We passed out coffee at Wal-Mart during the Christmas shopping season. We had a booth at a hunting and fishing expo, where we set up our bounce house for kids, painted faces, and gave away a $100 gift certificate to Lowe’s. On the cards for the drawing was a box to check if the person was interested in receiving more information about the church. We had about 20 cards to follow up on after this event. We took bags of Hershey Kisses to all the local businesses on Valentine’s Day. Inside the bag was a card inviting the recipient to our church.
We love and serve our community. We love kids. Our bounce house gets used all over town. We give it free for the schools to use. We invite middle school kids out to our youth center following home football games. Hundreds of kids shows up for this free event. We did an outreach at Halloween called “Trunk or Treat.” The list goes on.
Being outside minded caused our church to grow numerically, spiritually, and financially. There is a buzz of excitement in the air, and people are drawn to it. We are a “go and do” church, NOT a “come and watch us” church. My vision as pastor is to help my people find their vision. My job is to train, motivate and facilitate others. I am having a blast doing it.
Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
If I understand your question correctly, you are asking about changing the culture of your church to be more externally focused. I believe that Jesus experienced this same challenge. Even the Son of God had problems with his own disciples being more concerned about their own well being than others. None the less, he was able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to transcend them into a force that changed the world. I still struggle with this objective as a Pastor. I am pastoring a church that has been in existence for over 17 years and has yet to take a major missions trip to another country. I took over the Senior Pastorate 4 years ago and still have not been able to get people to commit to go. It is not that we haven’t planned trips and promoted them, because we have. So, I decided to start with baby steps. I believe for the church culture to change it has to be modeled from the top down. They have to see that it is not a campaign that comes from the pastor saying, “church you go and do the work while I sit behind my desk.” They have to see their Pastor in the trenches.
I believe many pastors really aren’t called to pastor; they are called to coach or golf or some other thing. They simply use their pastorate to pay their way so their schedule is flexible. If a pastor is in a church that pays a full time salary, then he should be the most diligent person on staff. Our hunger for lost souls can’t just be preached about, but it has to be demonstrated just as Jesus demonstrated it to his staff. I believe that if you want to start something new in a church of under 400 people, then it has to be started and established by the senior pastor. This goes back to what John Maxwell teaches; that we should model it before we can mentor it. I have seen too many things fall by the way side all because I didn’t model it first. I realize now that vision is much more than just sounding out a slick and fancy slogan. It has to be modeled by the senior pastor in a growing church. Once it has grown to a larger size of 500 plus, the pastor can release much of that responsibility; since the vision in each facet of ministry is pretty much established. Even still, I believe the pastor should clearly communicate his expectations to his staff prior to any launch of a new ministry within the church.
We started with what we call micro-missions. I am sure that it is a much used name among churches. We figured that most people now days can’t take a week or more off work to go overseas, but they can take a Saturday and help in a local outreach. So we started doing a micro-mission once a month. The purpose of our micro-missions was to build community awareness and help our church body experience the impact of serving people. Now, after two years, we have people starting to realize that life is about more than just themselves. We now have to limit how many people show up to certain events. Since we are starting to experience this cultural shift in our church, we scheduled another major mission this summer and we have had a great response. Don’t be discouraged if it takes years to change the culture in your church. I believe that it is easier to make culture shifts in churches over 500 people than under 500 people. I experienced this personally, since I lost half of my church 2.5 years ago. I knew that if we were going to be an effective church we would have to make changes; and today I am so glad I followed the Spirit and not the flesh. It has paid for itself many times over. I love the slogan “make wide turns.” It is also vital to have all the “key influential” players on board and that you have clearly communicated to them so they can support you.
Lastly, God shook my tree a few years back about looking at other churches as the standard of success. I really enjoy reading magazines that show new equipment and technology for churches. But it really ruffles my feathers if they insinuate that certain churches are now the standard of success. That somehow these magnificent structures, equipment and programs are now the benchmark that we should all try to achieve. I recently discovered that there is an award program for best designed churches and best audio or video installations. There are nine different categories in which they rate churches. I talked with the company that is doing this award program and she stated that, “It was a way to recognized churches that have experienced success.” Wow, what does that say about the rest of the churches out there? What does that say to the average size church of 70 people? It says, you’re along way off, so you might as well close your doors and send us your people because you are ineffective and will never achieve our stature of greatness. I thought success was seeing lives changed not a cool new projector or speaker system. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge proponent of technology and improvements, but it is not an end. It is merely a means to an end. Let’s face it, in today’s generation Noah would be considered a complete failure. 120 years of preaching and no conversions. Yet, I believe that he was a success since he was obedient to what God called him to do. Plus, the most important thing is that he was able to save his family.