The past few years, I’ve assisted established churches in learning to engage in outreach the way new churches reach out to the community. This is because there are now so many similarities between established and new churches. Here’s a summary of the training.
Pastors starting new churches make outreach a priority for ministry.
Almost all pastors have three priorities: preaching, teaching and pastoral care. Pastors also find time for an area of special interest such as pastoral counseling or social justice or prayer. When I started as a church planter, the area of special interest was dictated for me. If I didn’t lead the congregation in reaching out the community, the new church would fail. Pastors of established churches can make leading the church in outreach a priority.
New churches engage every team, committee and board in outreach.
Established churches have a Board of Outreach or Mission Committee. They financially support community causes or international missions. The new churches I served lacked the people, time and funding to support specialized committees for outreach. We instead ensured that every team, committee or board engaged in outreach. Each program was required to appeal to both church members and unchurched community members. All leaders built bridges into the community.
Church plants equip members to live out their vocations.
I started ministry in an established church, I assumed members knew how to live out their vocations. In the mission congregation, God brought us new Christians or Christians who were very disconnected from church. They did not know how to pray or share Jesus with a neighbor, let alone lead a Bible study in their homes. We had to equip our members to live out their vocations. This resulted in new people coming to our church. Looking back, my assumption about the established church was incorrect. We needed to equip members to live out their vocations in the established church.
New churches and new church members regularly pray for unchurched people.
In the established churches about 95 percent of prayers in worship are for physical or emotional healing of members and friends. In new churches, as many of half the prayers are for unchurched people. In some ways, this was very practical, since a new church didn’t have a long list of long time members. It also was due to purpose. New churches exist to reach and disciple unchurched people, especially new Christians. As such, in worship they pray for unchurched people, including the spiritually lost. The churches I started would even pray for people who would move into the community in the coming months or year.
Church plants regularly assess and adjust ministries and programs.
The established church I served had an annual congregational retreat for planning. In new churches, if we poured resources into ministries that were not bearing fruit for a year, we might not survive. Leaders made assessments every quarter. The assessment included congregational surveys on worship, outreach and the facilities. We also looked at whether we were forming relationships in each ministry. If after two quarters a program or ministry was not connecting us with new people, we adjusted or dropped the program.
Which of the above methods of outreach would work best in your congregation? Leave your insights in the comments section or shoot me an email.