I think there are 3 main reasons why pastors and churches don’t look beyond their 4 walls to reach their community. And in reality #1 leads to #2 and 3.
1. No vision
2. No money
3. No help
In other words no vision perpetuates itself whereas sensitivity to the Lord, unique ideas, and thinking outside of the box is contagious and infuses excitement into the body. A lack of vision also leads to the lack of funds and help. Why would people want to give their money or time to a church or pastor that has no vision?
Pastors are funny people. We tend to complain about problems that we’ve created. It’s kind of like marriage…men complain about their wives but what they fail to realize is that she is a reflection of them. If your wife is a nagging control freak then take a good long look in the mirror my friend because she is a product of your own stupidity.
But I digress…
I found that when I quit worrying about why soccer families missed so many services and why the church wasn’t growing and I just began to disciple the folks that were there and look beyond the 4 walls the problems that seemed so big to me actually disappeared.
It was during this epiphany that we began to do what for us were some big things…I detailed one of them in part 1 of this post. Some large outreaches that were way over our heads. In the summer of 2005 we began a summer festival called SonFest. My heart in this idea was to create a comfortable atmosphere where families could bring their kids and listen to some music and hear the gospel. We bring in 4-5 bands that play throughout the day. We cook up some hamburgers and hotdogs. We put on a mini-carnival for the kids with jump houses, water slide, petting zoo, and tons of games and candy. This year we added dramas with a clear presentation of the gospel after each one. We hold SonFest in a highly visible downtown park and typically we have 2 to 3 thousand people come throughout the day. We then hold our Sunday morning service in the park the following morning and we usually have about twice our normal Sunday attendance.
In addition to SonFest we also took over a local soup kitchen about a year ago. The former directors were real tired and decided that it was either time to find someone else or shut the doors. They approached us and asked if we would be interested in taking over the management of The Oasis. Initially I thought to myself, “are you kidding! We don’t have the man power or money to take this on.”
But after seeking the Lord and discussing it with our leadership we felt like it was the right thing to do. However the only way we thought it would work was if we hired a person from our church to manage it. At the time the current leaders (husband and wife) were volunteers but I knew that if we tried to go this route we would end up in the same boat they were in eventually. Immediately I thought of a women in our church who had just closed down a restaurant that her and friend ran together. She had food preperation and management experience and she has a tremendous heart for the Lord and people. She jumped at the opportunity and has been doing an amazing job. The Oasis serves lunch to about 50 people a day, 6 days a week. We also give away food boxes and financial assistance through that ministry. It has been a huge step of faith for us but God has provided and we are privileged to reach out to the “least of these” in our community.
In addition to these larger outreaches we have done some smaller scale events and projects. Some have been great successes; like a leaf raking outreach we did a few years ago where we went to different neighborhoods and raked leaves for people and then shared the gospel with them as they looked on dumbfounded.
Some have been pretty major failures, like the “equine clinic” we put on about a year ago…horses are a big deal here so we thought we would be relevant and reach out to the horse people
We brought in a guy who uses horses and horse training as a means to introduce people to the gospel. First of all I don’t know anything about horses so I asked a guy in the church to oversee the event. He pretty much flaked out and dropped the ball on most of his commitments. I had to pick up the slack and things went from bad to horrible. The horse outreach guy did a fair job of communicating the gospel with horses but it came across a bit canned and pretty cheesy. But what was really bad was the concert that followed. We invited this country band to come and play for us to follow up our good ol’ time. Well the problem was that nobody (and I mean nobody) from the community stayed for the concert. We literally had 9 people stay for the concert and all of them were from our church; people who felt obligated to be there. The lead singer of the band kept inviting people to church the next day and then finally realized all 9 of us were members. It was a disaster.
In your attempt to be a little church that does BIG things you will win some and lose others but don’t ever get discouraged. Keep praying, keep seeking God for wisdom and creative ideas as to how you can reach your community with the amazing gospel message.
If there is any way I can help you to implement some of your ideas into your church don’t hesitate to call or shoot me an email.
(541) 416-9009 (office)